Swedish thirst for Innis & Gunn beer helps sales surge

INNIS & Gunn, the Edinburgh-based beer company, yesterday reported its best first-quarter trading in its seven-year history, driven by a 55 per cent surge in sales in Sweden.

Turnover at the firm rose 21 per cent to 908,000 in the first three months of 2010.

The rise was driven by growing demand among Swedes, as well as a 400 per cent surge in British on-trade sales – those in pubs and restaurants – albeit from a low base.

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Sales through off-licences and supermarkets accounted for 95 per cent of the company's revenues in 2009.

Its beer is ranked third in sales volume and value in the speciality beer category in the UK off-trade, behind imports Leffe and Hoegaarden.

Dougal Sharp, managing director of Innis & Gunn, said: "Our first-quarter performance has surpassed our most optimistic expectations, with our UK on-trade focus now starting to pay real dividends."

In Sweden, the beer is the second best-selling imported bottled beer, behind Newcastle Brown Ale, and Sharp said Innis & Gunn had "narrowed the gap considerably" during the first quarter – hailing it as a "fantastic achievement".

Sharp added: "The Swedes are very discerning beer drinkers who appreciate different styles.

"We regularly release limited-edition products to build on the relationships we have with our consumers and this year we are introducing an IPA to the Swedish market. Swedes also have a strong affinity to Scotland – both reasons our beer has done so well there."

The beer is also sold in Finland, Ireland, Norway and Canada, where it is the best-selling British bottled beer.

Innis & Gunn is now on the cusp of its official launch in the United States – which Sharp said had "the biggest growth potential" – with the roll-out due to begin with New York and other states along the eastern seaboard. Its first order of 8,000 cases will be shipped this month.

The firm, launched in 2003 as a joint venture with William Grant & Sons, and subject to a management buyout in 2008, employs just eight staff, but Sharp said that would "inevitably" have to grow.

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