In an interview with The Morning Advertiser, Gareth Bath outlined his belief that consumers were no longer seeking “brands for life” but highlighted his company’s unique position as a beer, cider and wine producer as a key factor in retaining loyalty from customers.
“Customers are highly educated and discerning and they know what they want,” he said. “They have that information at their fingertips with their phone and, as a result, we are not seeing consumers having that brand for life in the same way.
“Increasingly in beer, consumers are willing to try new products,” he continued. “However, they still know what they like and they don’t like and there will be some gravitation towards brands that are consistent and that they trust. Quality and consistency are key whether you’re looking for new, unique, innovative or your go to beer. For us that is one of our anchor positions – that people can trust in us and in our quality as a drinks producer.
“Although people want to try new things, they still have a favoured area where most of their consumption is, and that is not going to change. People shop around and are interested by new things, but they are still going to want to drink a really great lager.”
Craft losing its meaning
Bath, who is the host of The Morning Advertiser’s Beer Summit event in Manchester this July, also hit out at the liberal use of the word ‘craft’, stating his fear that the term was no longer synonymous with quality.
“The danger with craft is that, because the definition has not been nailed in the UK, we now have the likes of Starbucks and Costa using it,” he said. “We’re losing the fact that craft used to be an association with quality and now it is just being used by anybody. When you’ve got two or three new breweries opening a week in London making a dozen new New England IPAs, the risk is that consumers start to find it a bit ubiquitous and feel like they cannot be assured of quality.”
Bath predicted breweries that focus on making a smaller core range of beers would be more likely to successful in the long run, pointing to the growth enjoyed by BrewDog as an example of this.
New product backlash
“We are already seeing a backlash to [producing lots of new products],” he said. “Brands are saying 'we're not going to make 85 beers a year, we are going to have a couple of core range beers and make them the best and most consistent we can'. Those are the brands that will really come through in the next 18 months or so.”
The Curious Brewery is currently building a new production facility in the centre of Ashford, Kent. The new site will have a state-of-the-art brewkit, taproom and restaurant that Bath hopes will “replicate what we do at the winery with beer”.
The brewery has also recently launched a new series of collaborations with craft brewers across the UK. The Curious and Curiouser series seeks to showcase yeast from the Chapel Down winery in a variety of different beer styles including sour ales and saisons. The first beer in the collection is a wild fermented Chardonnay & Bacchus sour ale created in partnership with Somerset’s The Wild Beer Company.