“The BrewDog business model and attitude is based on always having something fresh and new on offer – we won’t ever lose our rebellious edge.”
Neil Taylor – BrewDog Head of International Bars
Founders of BrewDog, proud Scots James Watt and Martin Dickie, were school friends and beer aficionados, fans of very hoppy IPAs (India Pale Ale) of the kind that couldn’t be found in Britain. The solution? They began to brew their own. Their flagship beer, Punk IPA, is their best-selling flavour.
They started out in April 2007, selling their product, which they produced in a cobbled together beer brewing kit to sell at local markets, but have since grown into a 350-employee business with an upcoming expansion of a new brewery in the works.
Neil Taylor, the BrewDog Head of International Bars, was recently in Tokyo and spoke about the company’s journey at a British Chamber of Commerce event, which was held at the bar in Roppongi. “Our mission is to make people as passionate about great beer as we are,” said Taylor, who clearly embodies this passion himself. “We never want to stop innovating.”
The company’s philosophy is clearly appealing, as they can claim the crown for Europe’s most successful example of crowd funding with three rounds of Equity for Punks, where they sold shares in their company to their customers, most recently bringing in GBP4.25million and over 15,000 shareholders. Not content to rest on the laurels of their success, they created the BrewDog Investment Fund in 2014 to provide funds for start up breweries in a bid to support the growth of craft beer worldwide.
David Croll, CEO at Japan-based company Whisk-e Limited, has been working with BrewDog since they entered the Japanese market in 2007. A big challenge for the company was limited space in Japan at both retailers and bars; BrewDog’s decision to support 12x330ml bottle case formats and offer 20L kegs was a key factor in early take-up of the range. Development in one-way plastic keg technology by a Dutch company solved the problem of shipping returnable steel kegs around the world. As consumers became familiar with their beer out of the tap, brand awareness soared and bottle sales soon followed. BrewDog have a core range of five beers, and then produce new beers every month with limited edition offerings that can be one-off, seasonal or annual.
With the establishment of their Roppongi bar in 2014, they have a good foothold in the Japanese market. Their next steps are to broaden their distribution channels and are working to get the brand to the wider public by selling on Amazon and through such outlets as Natural Lawson and Aeon supermarkets.
Croll has the following advice to companies wanting to break into the Japanese market:
1) Time and patience are two of the most important qualities to have.
2) Find a good local partner to work with.
3) Listen to the needs of the market – in Japan, space is a premium, and in the case of BrewDog, this meant reducing their bottle case sizes for this market.
4) Listen to your customers – feedback is the key to improvement.
5) Be passionate about your product; you have to live it and love it before you can expect others to!
For more insight into the food and drink industry in Japan, please see our dedicated Food and Drink sector page.
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