Tuesday, January 21, 2014

The Tie and the Small Brewers

Just suppose all this government PubCo malarkey ever reaches some kind of conclusion, and just suppose that a mandatory FOT (free of tie) option ushers in a new world of pubs. What's this new world going to mean for yer small brewer in this country?

I'm happy to consider myself a small brewer. Of course, if I had my right legs I'd be well over six foot. But hey, short legs run in my family (along with noses).

As things stand, whatever else they are, pubcos are big beer buyers (also wine, spirits, soft drinks, and everything else).  This means that they can demand big discounts from brewers (and everyone else).  The big brewers have fantasy price lists, of course, and are adapted to this.  The big brewers can also deliver the volumes that these big buyers require.  The pubcos operate closely with, or part own, wholesaler / distributors that facilitate this part of the operation. Then they whack a markup onto that discounted price to cover (a) their costs of running this operation and (b) the wet-rent element of their take from the pub.

We're all aware of the SIBA DDS scheme where small brewers can, if they wish, try to get their beers listed by the pubcos, so that select outlets can order their beer through their normal pubco channels and get it delivered direct by the brewer.  Of course, the costs of (a) administering this system and (b) the wet-rent are added onto the price that the brewer gets. So this beer is typically no cheaper (for the pub) than the regular stuff.  Dealing with the big wholesalers isn't really an option for the small brewer. We can't make beer for the price, or in the volumes, that they require.

If many pubs decide to opt out of their tied partnerships, they'll likely be charged higher rents to offset the pubcos lost wet-rent.  But they'll be free to buy on the open market.

And this is the question we started with.  What would this expanded free market for beer look like? What's the place of the small brewer in it?

There will be some new opportunities local to the small brewer - local pubs that have opted out.  There may be less call for beer through the DDS.  There will be opportunities for wholesalers to expand their free-trade business. The big wholesalers still won't be interested in small brewers.  There may be growth among smaller wholesalers.   There is the possibility that some small brewers will take advantage of the opportunities (particularly in the transitional phase) to grow their businesses quite substantially. Perhaps no longer being quite so very small.  I suspect the overall effect for many small brewers will be a small positive one.  Nothing to get really excited about.

Interesting times. Maybe.  Maybe not.

All the above, strictly a personal thing.

1 comment:

py0 said...

I'm quite happy with the idea of microbreweries serving one or two pubs only, small brewers serving a comfortable number of local freehouses, a medium brewer serving the pubs in its region, and a big brewer selling nationally via big chains and pubcos. It presents an obvious route to the top as brewers expand.

Its quite nice to be able to travel around the country and not just see the same old beer clips as back home.