Sharp's looks to tackle quality challenges on cask

By Ed Bedington

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags Molson coors Doom bar Beer Brewing Cask ale Pubs

It has been 10 years since the deal that saw Molson Coors snap up cask disruptor Sharp’s, and the combined business continues to go from strength to strength with the launch of new initiatives to drive the brand and the category forward.

The deal 10 years ago was one of the first of which saw big brewers snapping up innovative new upstarts, and while the move was initially greeted with some concern, Sharp’s has continued to thrive under the new ownership.

On-trade sales director for Molson, Martyn Cozens said the company wanted to protect the business, the culture and the brand, and added: “We’re very proud, a lot of people would point to that model, the way Molson Coors acquired, nurtured and protected the Sharp’s business, as being the way to do it now, when a big brewer buys a smaller cask or craft operation.”

Over that period of time, the company has grown the already fast-growing Doom Bar brand even further, allowing the Sharp’s business to unlock wider distribution and take over as the UK’s number one amber ale, along with £20m of investment into the brewery site at Rock, Cornwall. 

Now, as the company passes that 10 year milestone, they’re poised to push the brand and the category further, with plans for “significant” investment into Doom Bar with the launch of a major new advertising campaign kicking off in May.

The campaign will see an “In Your Element” theme developed, focusing on the brand’s Cornish heritage and associations with food and grassroots rugby, and aims to reach 15m drinkers through outdoor advertising, video on demand, social and print media and activity in outlets, alongside competitions to win thousands of prizes for consumers.

Cask quality action

At the same time, Sharp’s, in partnership with the wider Molson Coors business is looking to target some of the challenges facing the cask market. It aims to launch a Cask Guardian scheme to address some of the problems around quality in cask beer.

 “That’s the biggest challenge that the category faces, ensuring the quality is there,” said James Nicholls, Sharp’s marketing controller. “Ranging is critical, I still can’t believe the statistics that 93% of cask beer sold in this country is sold beyond the three day rule, which is the equivalent of a best before date. 

“It’s just unthinkable, it’s like going to the garage on your way home and seeing the crisp shelf and 93% beyond its best before date, you wouldn’t stand for it in any other category and we can’t stand for it in cask. 

“So it has to come back to that ranging conversation and making sure that the ranges we are offering have the right rate of sale to deliver the quality.”

To tackle this, the company is creating Cask Guardians throughout the Molson sales force who will be able to provide the education, training and information, alongside supporting materials such as bite-size videos,  to help operators and their teams deliver a better cask experience to customers.

“It’s a huge task,” added Nicholls, “but we have to tackle it. We’ve got to turn that tanker and make sure that drinkers are having a quality experience.”

The Morning Advertiser took a trip to the Rock Brewery to find out more about the 10 year old deal, and where the brand was now heading - to hear more about it, watch the video above. 

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