Scots brewer Innis & Gunn cheers robust year but pub closures push it into the red

Scottish brewer Innis & Gunn has cheered a robust performance despite an “incredibly challenging year” which saw lockdowns hammer the hospitality sector, leaving it nursing a group loss.

The brewing side of the business accounted for 97 per cent of the group’s £21.3 million turnover, maintaining a profit before tax for the year, despite the forced closure of the on-trade sector for much of 2020.

This shutdown had a significant impact on the beer-maker’s retail business, however, which accounted for the group loss for the year.

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Despite the reduction in group turnover, a strategy to focus on growing core products, in core markets, delivered like-for-like growth of 21 per cent, excluding the on-trade.

Dougal Gunn Sharp, founder and master brewer of Edinburgh-headquartered beer-maker Innis & Gunn.

Innis & Gunn, which was founded in 2003 and is headquartered in Edinburgh, has established a reputation for its whisky cask matured ales, with a loyal following among beer lovers at home and overseas. It also runs a number of taproom bars.

Dougal Gunn Sharp, founder and master brewer said: “It is fair to say that Innis & Gunn has had a strong 2020, despite it being the most challenging year in this business’ history and we have weathered the Covid-19 storm.

“We ensured our people stayed safe and were supported throughout and we continued our commitment to our charity partner, Meals & More, aiming to end children’s holiday hunger.

“We also used time in 2020 to focus on the future of Innis & Gunn, with the growth plans implemented already seeing significant success across the business.

“The closure of the on-trade impacted what would have been our 17th year of consecutive growth, but that aside, we have seen huge success in the off-trade and through our own e-commerce channel and we are in a strong position.”

During the year, the firm’s flagship beer, The Original, grew by 7.4 per cent, driven by growth in the UK and internationally.

Innis & Gunn’s Lager Beer grew 5.3 per cent overall, which was described as a “particularly strong performance” as historically a significant portion of volume has been delivered through the UK on-trade.

The premium lager continues to be Scotland’s number one craft lager brand, according to industry data.

Bosses said this trend had continued into 2021, with significant new listings secured for Lager Beer, which will be available across almost 500 Tesco stores throughout England in four-pack canned format from this month.

These new listings, coupled with a new on-trade distribution partnership with Tennent’s owner C&C Group, will play a key part in Innis & Gunn’s growth plans to expand into England.

Sharp added: “To achieve such significant new listings for our lager throughout England with Tesco is phenomenal and a testament to the quality of beer that we produce and the brand that we have built.

“I look forward to continuing the momentum we are creating and bringing Scotland’s best lager to more drinkers around the UK.”

Earlier this year, the firm launched a limited-edition beer in collaboration with iconic Islay distiller Laphroaig. Just 3,400 bottles of Islay Whisky Cask were made available to buy in the UK via the beer-maker’s online store.

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