Problem Solver: I've an idea brewing to convert my farm buildings
Q: I have a small farm in the midlands and was considering converting some of the farm buildings into a microbrewery as there is no brewery in our local county. I would welcome any advice you could give.
A: There has been fantastic growth in the number of microbreweries around the country in the last five years and as far as I am aware there are now over seventy breweries at various locations throughout the country.
The market share of the microbreweries does not yet reflect their numbers, and from what I understand the share of beer sold from the microbreweries is approximately 5pc. On the positive side that suggests that if Ireland follows the trend in both the UK and America, there is still room for significant growth.
I have heard some concerns raised by those within the industry that there may not be room for every single brewery as they're all targeting the same consumer.
I have no doubt you will gain quick popularity within your own county and region and you will find little difficulty with persuading pubs and retailers to stock your product.
Everyone loves to have a local brewery in their own area to be proud of, however there will not be enough volume in this to keep you in business and therefore you have to think about your strategy for other sales.
The obvious route would be to take on a distributor and push your product out nationally with particular emphasis on pubs who differentiate through offering a different variety of beer. You may however find this route is crowded.
Alternatively, looking at an export market at the early stages could be advantageous. This can be complex and in the case of America, can require both an importer and distributor which means your cost model has to be carefully planned out. Bord Bia will certainly be able to assist with advice on export markets.
Success or failure will certainly be determined by the strength of your branding and the unique nature of your product. Australia is a good benchmark for a whole range of different types and styles of beer and varying approaches to marketing and branding. Some beers take a very traditional approach, while others are fun and funky.
On the retail side of things most of the microbreweries so far focused on bottled beers and I am only aware of one Irish microbrewery who has a canned beer product.
This may be an opportunity for you. Whatever route you decide to go you will need to work very hard on the brand building aspect through getting lots of PR and having a very strong digital media campaign to help get the message out there. I wish you well on your journey and do let me know how you get on!
Send your small business questions to himself@ feargalquinn.ie