Craft brewer Innis & Gunn looking to tap into accelerated growth ahead of 20th anniversary

Scottish craft brewer Innis & Gunn is mulling further expansion of its taproom portfolio amid a broader bid to grow sales in the UK and overseas as it approaches its 20th anniversary next year.

The business, now headquartered at Edinburgh’s Orchard Brae House, has just opened its latest venue, the 4,000-square-foot West Nile Street Brewery Taproom in Glasgow, and the firm’s founder and master brewer Dougal Gunn Sharp believes more could follow suit.

The taproom concept “is such a valuable brand-building tool for the Innis & Gunn brand”, he said, noting that its other sites – one in Dundee, one in Glasgow’s West End, and two in Edinburgh – have collectively welcomed more than a million people this year, and Scotland “is the most obvious target” for any future addition to the portfolio. The firm previously also had a taproom in St Andrews.

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Mr Sharp explained that Innis & Gunn, which last year announced a £100,000 investment into the business and earlier this year boosted its board, has been achieving absolute volume and top-line revenue growth, although this has been hard-won given headwinds such as escalating energy costs. The firm last month revealed its 2021 results, achieving total gross profit of £7.4 million, marking a 7.4 per cent year-on-year increase, although sales were flat on the back of the impact of Omicron and delayed year-end shipments due to supply-chain issues.

'I think as long as I'm able to point out how we can grow the business, I want to keep doing this. Because that's what excites me,' says Dougal Gunn Sharp. Picture: contributed.

Looking at the firm’s sales outlook, Mr Sharp has now said: “Certainly, we will grow – I think we're very clear, now, on which strategies are working in the post-Covid landscape. We'll really be doubling down on those strategies – on-trade growth, capitalising on our growth of the off trade, and continuing to grow our international core territories [which include Sweden and Canada].”

Opportunity

He would also like to see accelerated growth in the on trade on both sides of the Border. In this regard, it has grown from about 500 accounts for lager in March, April, to now more than 700 and targeting about 800 by year end, while it now has about 50 to 60 accounts in England, and “we know that there's a big opportunity [there]”.

The beer firm earlier this month unveiled Vanishing Point 06, an imperial stout made in a tie-up with single malt The Glenlivet, following a similar partnership with Islay whisky firm Laphroaig. “They're just exciting collaborations that changed the game for us. I love to do that stuff,” says Mr Sharp. As for plans to create Edinburgh’s first new brewery in more than 150 years, a £20m facility at Heriot-Watt University’s Research Park, and which last year gained planning permission, this has been delayed by various factors, and it will be reviewed in 2023 with efforts then resumed if deemed strategically viable.

But overall, he sees real opportunity for growth. “I love it as much now as I did when I started. The challenges are different, particularly these last three years, but I can clearly see how to grow the business. And I think as long as I'm able to point out how we can grow the business, I want to keep doing this. Because that's what excites me.”

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