Innis & Gunn celebrates as annual sales break £10m

Dougal Sharp has streamlined the brewer's operations. Picture: Julie Bull

Dougal Sharp has streamlined the brewer's operations. Picture: Julie Bull

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Edinburgh-based beer producer Innis & Gunn has broken through the £10 million sales barrier for the first time on the back of a strong performance in the UK, new figures have revealed.

Exports fell from 78 to 71 per cent of trade in 2013 following the introduction of Lager and Toasted Oak IPA to the firm’s core stable of beers. Its flagship brand, Original, is now the best-selling bottled beer by value in the Scottish off-trade.

Set up in 2003 as a joint venture with whisky group William Grant, the company was bought out by its current management team in 2008. Founder and chief executive Dougal Sharp has spent the past three years investing in new equipment and streamlining operations.

This has included transferring the firm’s bottling operation from Bury St Edmonds in Suffolk to the Wellpark Brewery in Glasgow, where Innis & Gunn’s beers are made. A re-design of its bottles has reduced the amount of glass used, cutting further on transport costs and carbon emissions.

The brewer, which has its headquarters in the Scottish capital, has also financed the six-figure design and development of second-generation “Oakerators”, the hi-tech vessels used to mature its beers. These went into service in December of last year.

“The Oakerators were ground-breaking when they were first built in 2010,” Sharp said. “They augment the barrel aging we do, and enable us to be a lot more scientific in our brewing process to extract the very best flavour from the oak with far greater certainty that every drop produced would taste the same, something we could never fully achieve through barrel ageing.”

Since its inception, the firm has focused its exports on countries where whisky is popular, as this is a defining flavour of its brews. Innis & Gunn is now the most popular bottled import into Sweden, and the most popular bottled British beer in Canada.

Sales into those markets met forecasts last year, helping the company to further international growth. However, UK growth was described as “exceptional”, rising from 22 to 29 per cent of overall sales.

In total, turnover was up by 15 per cent last year to £10.5m on volumes which jumped by 30 per cent.

The company is now focusing on expansion in the US, where it has signed an exclusive three-year deal with cider brand Thatchers. This covers all administrative, marketing and promotional support for the Somerset firm’s flagship Thatchers Gold brand.

That deal has doubled the size of the Innis & Gunn team in the US, which represents the firm’s beer portfolio in more than 20 states from its headquarters in New York. Total headcount now stands at 45 globally.

This year the company expects to sell three million bottles in the US, a growth rate of 32 per cent when measured by volume.

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