US brewers and craft ale brands have transformed the UK’s beer landscape, empowering consumers to demand better quality beers and honest stories from British companies, Marston’s managing director Richard Westwood told MA before the reveal of the company’s £1m rebrand today.
Success of licensing:
"What’s interesting for us is the success of our licensing agreements, such as with Shipyard, which has done incredibly well. So, more of that, and how we can exploit them [other brands]"
It is pertinent UK brewers keep up to date with the market by producing exciting products, stories and imagery that are in line with new consumer demands.
Marston’s would do this by making the most of its 600-pint microbrewery DE14, where it will experiment with new brews, and through acquisitions of beer brands, as well as developing more partnerships with other breweries.
“We have a very successful strategy currently and that’s to constantly be looking at beers and brands that add to our portfolio,” explained Westwood.
‘If the right brand came up’
“We are about quality and if the right brand came up and fitted with that, then we would be interested.”
Buying brands that fit with Marston’s ethos had been part of the business’s strategy since it bought Ringwood Brewery for £19.2m in 2007, he said.
Although the brewer and pub operator would buy into other brands, its main priority was to focus “day in, day out” on its three core brands: Pedigree, Hobgoblin and Wainwright – which moved to its portfolio after the £25m acquisition of Daniel Thwaites’s brewing arm last year.
Other focuses include the contract brewing of beers, such as the collaboration with the US’s Portland-based Shipyard Brewing Company.
“What’s interesting for us is the success of our licensing agreements, such as with Shipyard, which has done incredibly well,” added Westwood. “So, more of that, and how we can exploit them [other brands].”
While overseas collaborations were important, Westwood was also interested in working with UK businesses and revealed the firm was “talking to a few brands”, but would not specify which.
“It’s a method that works because we are producing great beers that have credentials from around the world and have a great back story,” he said.
Marston’s microbrewery DE14, meanwhile, would produce beers that fit with the company’s £1m rebrand, by giving drinkers crafted liquids with a great story behind them, Westwood explained.
“The idea is that it’s research and development for the brewers and all of the 10 to 11 master brewers will be given the chance to experiment with it.”
There were no plans to push high volumes out the microbrewery and nobody had put a number on the amount of beer that needed to come from DE14, Westwood confirmed. Instead, the team would work on creating high-quality brews that would be a good business proposition for Marston’s.
“It’s a structural change in terms of how we develop new beers and I’m not saying to the guys ‘you need to produce 50 beers’, because I would rather have two good beers from it.”
Find out why Charles Wells believes craft beer is pushing big brewers, such as itself, to change their image.