Innis & Gunn brewing up a storm in US markets

Dougal Sharp: Led buy'out that sparked Innis & Gunn's dramatic expansion
Dougal Sharp: Led buy'out that sparked Innis & Gunn's dramatic expansion
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BEER company Innis & Gunn yesterday posted a 62 per cent surge in sales after breaking into the lucrative United States craft brewing market.

The Edinburgh-based firm’s products, which are aged in whisky casks, have gone on sale in 20 states during the past year and gained listings at restaurant’s including Gordon Ramsay’s outlet on the Las Vegas strip.

A 178 per cent leap in sales in the US helped the company to turn over a total of £7.5 million in 2011. Exports now account for 77 per cent of turnover.

Innis & Gunn said that its sales had continued to grow during the current year, with total turnover up 30 per cent year-on-year in the eight months to 31 August.

At home, revenues were boosted by the launch of its original beer on draught in pubs and the addition of its rum cask beer to the main range, having previously been a special edition.

The firm’s beer is ranked as the fourth-highest seller in the UK’s speciality category, behind wheat beer trio Erdinger, Hoegaarden and Leffe.

Finance director David Cockburn told The Scotsman that the firm was continuing to mull a possible push into other European markets and that it was running the rule over countries including France and Spain.

The company already operates in Finland, Norway and Sweden, as well as the UK, Ireland and North America. In Sweden, Innis & Gunn is the second best-selling imported ale, while it is also the top-selling British beer in Canada.

Cockburn remained tight-lipped on the firm’s profits as the business is still small enough to file abbreviated accounts at Companies House. But he said the firm’s surplus cash during 2011 had been ploughed into its recruitment drive, with its headcount swelling from 12 to 32.

Managing director Dougal Sharp revealed in December that the firm was pumping £1m into its expansion, with the Scottish Government contributing £175,000 through a regional selective assistant grant.

“Looking back it’s hard to believe that there were only 12 of us rattling round our new office and now we’re close to filling it already,” said Sharp.

Cockburn revealed that the firm is launching a winter treacle porter as this season’s special edition and that sales had been rising since the relaunch of its Melville fruit beer, which scooped the “world’s best fruit-flavoured beer” title at Friday’s World Beer Awards for its strawberry-flavoured brew.

Scottish firms chalked up several successes in the competition, with Arran Brewery collecting the “world’s best brown ale” award and Stirling-based Transitional Scottish Ales’ double espresso being named “world’s best flavoured beer”. Edinburgh-based Stewart Brewing carried off the “European best pale ale” title for its Hollyrood tipple and also the “European best experimental flavoured beer” award for its coconut porter.

Innis & Gunn was launched in 2003 as a joint venture with distiller William Grant & Sons to develop a beer to provide casks to finish a “cask ale reserve” blended whisky. The beer tasted good enough to drink so a company was formed to bottle and sell the tipple. Sharp led a management buy-out in 2008.