How Breweries Have Started to Re-Think Growth

The game of growth has changed for most craft breweries. Opening, building a core base of hometown fans and expanding out farther and farther is no longer the notion of some. Digging in deep to where they are is key.

“Ten years ago, if you had a strong brand and capital, you could move from market to market, opening new territories, hiring new reps and back office to manage the day to day,” said Falls City Brewing president Shane D.B. Uttich. “Today, you can have that strong brand, great beer, capital … but you’re competing against dozens and dozens of others in their home market. Today, growth is ‘stand your ground geographically’ — especially in your backyard — increase pull through rates in an ever-competitive market, add another SKU, add another handle, etcetera.

“Essentially, dig deeper in your home town. Not expand out geographically.”

It’s working for the Louisville, Kentucky brewery, which re-established the classic Falls City brand in 2010 and produced more than 7,000 barrels in 2016. The brewery announced on June 1 that it would be opening a new brewery and taproom in the NuLu area of Louisville later this year as well.

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Uttich noted that quality is paramount (“Without that you’re a flash in the pan,” he said) but secondly, Falls City feels it is necessary to market its brand towards a wider demographic.

“We want young Millennials up to 75-plus-year-olds to enjoy at least one of our beer styles,” Uttich said. “Expanding demographics is a growth opportunity… marketing to a wider audience.”

Building awareness in non-metro areas could bode well for growth he pondered. Since re-establishing the brand, Uttich said they have shifted the long-term plan of the brewery from “expand sales geographically” towards other marketable growth mechanisms.

“Many folks in the country drink domestic light lagers,” he said. “We can educate them that local craft is better, and ask: would they rather eat a Ponderosa steak every day or a filet mignon; craft beer being the filet.

“Price could be an issue, but plenty of country folk can afford that filet,” he said.

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