BrewDog sees annual losses shrink and sales jump amid major investment

Ellon-headquartered craft beer firm BrewDog has narrowed its operating loss and grown income in 2021, saying this came despite by bar sales still being heavily restricted by Covid.

The business, led by controversial chief executive and co-founder James Watt, said revenues jumped 21 per cent from 2020 to £286 million, as its UK sales and market share grew.

Its adjusted ebitda – earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation, and amortisation – grew by 79 per cent to £14m, and it said improving margins and market-leadership positions were offset by continued investment in people and Covid-related losses in its retail arm, while its operating loss shrank to £5.5m from a £6.8m loss.

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BrewDog said it invested £9m more on its staff on the likes of upscaled training, rewards and culture, and it made 839 hires in 2021, bringing its workforce to 2,346, while it toasted the contribution of chair Allan Leighton, with the appointment of the former Asda boss to the role announced in September.

It also said it had completed an “extensive” culture review, taking measures such as upping pay packets and investment in mental health provision. That news came in the wake of accusations of a “toxic” company environment and “culture of fear”, which saw Mr Watt later apologise, and later claim BrewDog would “pause, reflect and learn lessons”.

In January of this year, a BBC Disclosure programme aired accusations against Mr Watt of inappropriate behaviour and abuse of power, which he strongly rebuffed.

The maverick firm a few weeks ago unveiled a bumper £100m share award, with Mr Watt donating a fifth of his personal stake to staff in the year of its 15th anniversary, and it outlined ambitions including further global expansion in its “blueprint” for the next 15 years.

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The brewer pointed to a further 30 new venues planned for 2022, including a flagship bar in Las Vegas (pictured). Picture: contributed.

It has now said it invested £13m in its venues last year, with seven new bars and two new hotels together with two new bars with its franchise partners in four markets. A further 30 new sites are planned for 2022, notably flagship bars in London Waterloo and Las Vegas.

Growth

Beer volumes of 962,000 hectolitres were up by nearly a quarter on 2020, which the business largely attributed to the UK, US, Germany and Australia – and it added that it is still the UK’s fastest-growing beer brand, with total such sales up around 80 per cent since the start of the pandemic.

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As for current trading, 2022 has started “well”, amid BrewDog’s bid to create the largest craft brewery in the world through the investment in its HQ that continues this year. However, it also pointed to a continued internal focus on cost in the “current inflationary environment”.

Mr Watt said 2021 was “another year of huge progress”, adding: “Though challenges remained, not least the continued closure of much of our bar estate during the year, we delivered significant growth across the business.”

He praised the recent blueprint announcement, also stating: “We are passionately committed to our goal of becoming one of the world’s five most valuable beer brands over the next five years, built on our three core pillars of Beer, People and Planet. It’s been an incredible journey. But we’ve only just got started. The next 15 years promises to be even more exciting.”

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