Morrisons sees deal as a chance to brew up sales of Scottish beers

A GROUP of Scottish micro-breweries were yesterday toasting a distribution deal with supermarket chain Morrisons.

Under the supply contract, Williams Brothers – the Alloa-based brewer behind brands including Birds & Bees, Midnight Sun and Seven Giraffes – will act as the chain’s beer buyer north of the Border.

Williams will supply Morrisons’ 60 stores in Scotland not just with its own beers but with tipples produced by other small brewers.

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The deal will initially cover Fyne Ales, Inveralmond, Traditional Scottish Ales and the Isle of Skye Brewery, but Williams hopes the contract could be extended to other producers.

Eleven beers will be listed in Morrisons from next week, with the range being extended during next year.

The distribution contract is modelled on an existing deal signed with Marston’s that covers brewers south of the Border.

Richard McLelland, director of sales at Williams Brothers and a member of the “brotherhood”, an informal alliance of Scottish brewers, said: “Morrisons already stocks a large range of beers but many of them are English and some of them don’t sell so well in Scotland. So the supermarket was talking to the industry and I jumped in and volunteered to run this scheme.

“The first orders will be for two pallets from each brewery and, with 96 cases on a pallet, that’s a big order.

“If this builds up into regular work then it can act as a firm foundation for breweries to expand. Supermarkets are sometimes painted as big and bad and evil but in fact they pay their bills on time and they can give you predictions for what they need in terms of stock, which can help you to build your business and take on extra staff during busy periods.

“The cash coming in from a deal like this can also help you to expand into different ranges and try doing different things.”

McLelland added that the four other breweries had been chosen because Williams Brothers already carries out bottling and packaging work on their behalf but that he hoped to extend the scheme to other suppliers.

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Tuggy Delap, chair of the Scottish branch of the Society of Independent Brewers, whose family also runs Fyne Ales, said: “One of my hopes from this deal is that customers will drink the bottled beers at home and then try them in pubs too the next time they see them on draft.

“We have avoided supermarket contracts in the past because we have to be realistic about our costs. But I think Williams Brothers has done us all proud with this deal.”

Colin Valentine, the Edinburgh-based chairman of the Campaign for Real Ale (Camra), added: “It’s pleasing to see so many real ale brewers getting wider exposure.”