Due to impressive growth levels in recent years, the craft beer industry has been highlighted as a critical sector in the Scottish economy. Specifically, it features prominently in Scotland’s Food & Drink most recent export plan as a high-potential product. Much of this growth has been attributed to the strong levels of collaboration in the sector, as evidenced by co-brewing and joint distribution practices. However, insight from research undertaken by the core programme team as well as discussions with industry representatives has highlighted key areas where the sector faces barriers and difficulties, such as exporting and bottling. These challenges limit further growth potential.
The programme aimed to provide a platform for Scottish brewers and relevant industry bodies to work alongside their counterparts from across Europe to:
- identify and scope key growth areas of concern in the craft beer sector where creative future developments are required;
- apply international academic expertise in small business growth that has been successfully used to address issues in other countries and industries;
- facilitate sharing of knowledge and practice, to inform and influence SME and sectoral policy and support;
- co-create collaborative action plans as launch-pads for future sector growth.
The project focused on network-driven growth, exhibited at different formats and levels in different regions. The team of academics from Strathclyde and Heriot Watt facilitated two action-research events that were shaped and attended by a multi-disciplinary, international team of academics, craft beer practitioners, and industry bodies from Scotland, the rest of the UK and nine European countries (Denmark, Norway, Italy, Ireland, Finland, France, Germany, Spain, Slovenia).
During the two events, Scottish-based academics, brewers, and relevant industry bodies had the opportunity to meet with their counterparts from 9 European countries to:
- identify key structural bottlenecks and challenges in the sector, and their impact at the individual firm level;
- share knowledge and expertise;
- apply existing academic frameworks/models of small business growth to highlight issues and suggest solutions;
- examine the appropriateness of existing models of collaboration to tackle the identified challenges;
- explore the potential of options such as shared export marketing campaigns, buying co-operatives, and mobile bottling or canning lines, amongst others;
- develop practical action plans for tackling challenges and optimising opportunities for the sector, and the breweries within it;
- provide recommendations for best practices and optimal ways in which existing policy and support agencies can nurture the further growth of this sector.
'Bringing together a true cross section of geographically diverse craft breweries to a forum under the same roof was a masterstroke. The Building for Growth Craft Beer summit put Glasgow in the front and centre seats of craft beer revolution and I feel privileged to have been sat in one of them!'
Colin Wilde, Managing Director, Castle Rock Brewery