Online beer experts boosted by lockdown switch to home deliveries.


Not every business has been affected by the coronavirus pandemic in an entirely negative way.

Many already set up to operate entirely online have actually seen sales increase, as Ali Stewart, CEO of Flavourly, explains.

What has changed in your sector since lockdown?

Lockdown has really driven an acceleration in two pre-existing trends: the growth in e-commerce generally, and the growth of the off trade over the on trade in the beer sector.

Beer sales for home consumption overtook on trade sales in 2017 in volume terms, and lockdown has accelerated this trend.

What impact has lockdown had on your business?

The business was doing well prior to lockdown, but we are now trading at more than double our budgeted levels.

We are incredibly proud to say that we currently represent between 10% and 80% of our partner breweries' turnover - providing them with a vital route to market and protecting businesses and jobs at a time when the off trade is closed.

What have you done in response?

We have taken on additional warehouse space next to our existing site in Paisley, creating about 30 new jobs with hopefully more to come later this year.

We have also scaled up our supply chain by adding new brewery partners and increasing deliveries from existing partners.

What have been the consequences of your change in behaviour/operations?

Everyone is tired now! It has been a really busy period and the team have done a great job of scaling up without dropping the ball.

However, the constant amongst the change is that we have tried to remain rigorously customer-focussed. This is something which is easy to say, but with a small team sprinting at full pace it would have been easy to lapse into doing things that were operationally easier for us rather than focussing on what is right for our customers.

We have got a couple of things wrong during this process, but all we can do is learn from those mistakes, act quickly to remediate and move on.

What are your predictions for the short term in your sector?

As a team who work in the beer sector we were all desperate for the pubs to re-open.  While virtual calls are great, there really is nothing quite like enjoying a beer with friends and family in person.

That said we think it will take a while before things get back to anything like ‘normal’. There will undoubtedly be a degree of public reticence to go to the pub even as the rules allow it, and we are cautious about general economic conditions going into 2021.

Therefore the new ‘consumption occasions’ at home in small groups can go some way to filling that shortfall as long as we make life easy for the consumer.

What are the changes that will ‘stick’ once out of lockdown and affect your sector for the longer term?

Because lockdown has accelerated pre-existing trends it is likely that quite a lot of it will stick.

More people are getting used to buying beer online and this is not a trend which is going to reverse.

Beer is bulky and heavy so it’s a great product to have delivered rather than lugging it home from a shop.

Graeme Bradshaw, Partner and member of the food & drink team at Burness Paull was in conversation with Ali Stewart, CEO of Flavourly.

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Food & Drink