International Insights: How This Croatian Brewery Adapted its Sales Strategy Overnight

International Insights is a continuing series of Q&As with brewing members, but this time branching outside of the US and into the rest of the world.
In this series, Brewer will share personal insights from international breweries each week about the craft beer market in other countries, where those brewers get their inspiration, and how the market compares to craft beer in the US.

Ivan Naukovic, Head of Marketing and Sales, Pivovara Medvedgrad — Zagreb, Croatia

BREWER: What can you tell me about the history of your brewery?
NAUKOVIC: Pivovara Medvedgrad is a family brewery founded in 1994 — marking the beginning of craft brewing in Zagreb. Our beer halls, together with the micro-brewery, have always been an integral part of the Zagreb beer scene, from the first day.  Our specialty is producing Lagers and IPAs. We make our beers with love, using traditional brewing methods in combination with cutting-edge technology. The raw materials we use are exclusively natural and top quality. The year 2019 was a big and important one for us and our business: we celebrated our 25th birthday and opened a new and bigger brewery. Honesty, cooperation, hard work, responsibility, a love for beer and a desire to thrive, are the core values of the Medvedgrad Brewery.

BREWER: What are the popular beers at your brewery, and how do they compare to the popular styles in your country?
NAUKOVIC: We love all styles of beer, with our specialty being Lagers and IPAs. We consider Lagers to be the greatest classic in the beer world, and the hop the most magical beer ingredient. That being said, Lagers are the most popular style among the general public, and hoppy beers, preferably IPAs, are mostly popular among craft beer lovers. Our Pilsner Zlatni Medvjed (Golden Bear) is our most popular beer and we have a few IPAs that are popular – Fakin IPA and Baltazar (actually an India Pale Lager).

 BREWER: How has COVID-19 affected your country and your brewery, and how have you had to adapt to restrictions and safety concerns?
NAUKOVIC: I guess like any other country, at the beginning everybody was a bit scared. But we quickly adapted to “new normal” conditions and practically overnight organized a web shop and delivery in most of the bigger towns in Croatia. Orders started coming in even more than we expected, so it was a challenge to deliver all the beer, but again we managed to succeed and keep our customers happy. Our delivery team was following all the required measures, which meant contactless delivery. That kept everybody going in the time of quarantine, some were working from home; some had to be in the brewery preparing orders; some had to be out there on the streets, delivering beer. Even our owners jumped in the van when there were many orders. At the same time, we had an earthquake in Zagreb, which caused quite a lot of damage. Our answer was Fantom IPA, humanitarian beer from which all the earnings went for the newborn parents’ club Palčići (Thumbelinas) that got damaged in the earthquake.

BREWER: Has the pandemic allowed the brewery to take a step back and work on anything that needed attention or given you new ideas for the brewery moving forward? What does the future of the brewery look like now?
NAUKOVIC: First of all, we had to reorganize pretty much everything, because we had a lot of things planned for 2020 and then everything turned upside down in two weeks. We tried to find new markets for our beer and focused more on promotion of the web shop, which did not exist just a few weeks back. A lot of ideas are on the table, but we are taking one step at the time, because nowadays everything is changing overnight, so we need to be focused and ready to quickly adapt. Hopefully we can continue to follow our plan of expansion thanks to the new, modern brewery. This is definitely the most challenging period in the history of the company. Good thing is that we have optimistic, positive people in the brewery, ready to help and try harder to make it happen. Without them none of this would be possible.

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