“All of this is not to suggest brewers are blindly optimistic," Simcic says. "They appear to have a healthy understanding of the issues and challenges that come with rapid growth and exporting.
"Managing capacity constraints, securing shelf space and a steady supply of raw materials stand out as key challenges – while those brewers who are exporting point to the impact of freight on beer quality, and the challenges of securing distribution and positioning their brand. “
Successful strategies include planning and forecasting well ahead, building strong relationships and calling in professional expertise to help fill any skill gaps.
The willingness of craft brewers and other players to collaborate is seen as one of the industry's greatest strengths. Examples range from collaborative brewing arrangements to joint sales and marketing initiatives such as the New Zealand Craft Beer Collective, which sees five brewers banding together to take on the UK market.
In another initiative, Auckland-based glassmaker O-I teamed up with the city's Unitec Institute of Technology to design a beer bottle specifically for the Asian market.
THIRST FOR INVESTMENT
The truest measure of an industry's prospects is often the extent to which it can attract capital to fulfil its growth ambitions. Investors too are putting their money where their palate is, funding New Zealand craft breweries at around twice their annual revenue – at least double what's typically paid for brewers overseas.
"Investors are prepared to pay a premium to own their piece of this industry," says Simcic. "Why is this happening? You can only conclude that investors see exceptional growth potential, while understanding that the opportunities to invest are currently quite limited. I'd also suggest that some are people who personally share the passion we're seeing among consumers and brewers for great beer."
A TASTE OF BREW ZEALAND?
Views in the industry are mixed on the value of the New Zealand brand to exporters. Some argue that the true appeal lies in a distinctive New Zealand flavour. Either way, many are determined to keep the 'New Zealand' and the 'craft' in Kiwi craft beer as they grow rapidly and export and in some cases begin brewing in-market.
"You can take these businesses offshore and keep the beer 'craft'," says Jason Crowe, Business Manager for Wellington's iconic Garage Project, which in four years has grown from origins more nano than micro brewery into a multi-market exporter. "There's nothing stopping you from being 50 times your size and still producing the exact same product."
Luke Nicholas, Owner Brewer at Epic Brewing Company, believes there's no substitute for quality: "good beer, in good condition sells itself," he says. "The NZ Inc brand offers some degree of value but exceptional beer can be made anywhere in the world."
Bob King, Chairman of New Zealand's Brewers Guild, is confident the nation's beer industry is in good stead. “New Zealand has an incredibly proud tradition and talent for beer brewing. It's been a favourite pastime for many Kiwis and it turns out others think we're pretty darned good at it."
'New Zealand Craft Beer Industry Insights 2015', by Josh Newton, Senior Manager, ANZ New Zealand Client Insights and Solutions team. The report was developed closely with brewers and the supply chain enabling a thorough presentation of the industry, from opportunities to challenges. The full report can be seen here.