After a lot of announcements about small breweries all around the world being bought by, or “selling out” to, large global breweries recently, there is a lot of rumour, speculation and finger pointing going on in the local beer industry.
The exits from the industry that we are seeing overseas and here in Australia appears to be mostly driven by long time brewery founders deciding that they have done their time, or they have seen their businesses outgrow their ability to manage them. For others their business has not been able to reach the scale where it can provide an annual return to its owners, so the best way to get a return on their sweat and investment is to sell. Of course there are some operators who have obviously got into it to make a quick buck, and jumped ship at the first sign of a pay cheque.
We are both amused, annoyed and angered that we continually hear our name being thrown around as “the next one to go”, or that “those guys are just in it for the money”.
But we can understand why some people want to speculate or start rumours about the future of Stone & Wood or other breweries.
It’s a matter of trust (or a lack of it) that is driving that. People are supporting small businesses like Stone & Wood because they can’t trust big business and politicians anymore. Sadly, when small breweries who for years have played the anti-corporate card, sell out, it starts to tear away at that trust again.
If people are looking for who might be next, or who’s in it just for the money, then maybe they should be looking at those breweries who step back away from the hard calls, and don’t fully commit to the industry that they are part of, or the communities they operate in.
We work hard everyday to build people’s trust and faith in our business. We know it can’t just be expected, and that it has to be earned.
Over the years we have made tough decision after tough decision that should prove that we are truly, fiercely and proudly independent spirits, and aren’t “just in it for the money”.
In 2012 we bought our shares back from our friends at Little Creatures when a big corporate got too close.
When other brewers of a similar size to us choose to buy their beer from another brewer instead of brewing it all themselves, we have steadfastly refused to budge from our position that we will brew all of our own beer, despite the fact that we have had to let a massive demand for our beer go unmet.
We made the tough choice to invest heavily in our local community and build a new brewery in the region instead of outsourcing our growth, and having beer contract brewed. We value our local community and those that support us, so we are creating jobs and adding value to our good partners (our local suppliers). It astonishes us that some brewers will quite happily buy their beer from other breweries on the other side of the country or the world, and in doing so turn their back on the people that support them.
We are committed to having our highly talented team be co-owners in the business. Each year we welcome more of our team as partners and shareholders in Stone & Wood, and after our annual offer next month more than 50% of our team will be shareholders.
We are ensuring that we tread lightly on the earth we walk on, and through our Green Feet program we recently invested more than $200,000 on solar energy at our Murwillumbah brewery, and are committed to sustainable practices in our breweries to improve energy and water efficiencies.
Giving back to our community is a fundamental promise we have made to ourselves, and our inGrained program has been established to facilitate that. In the last twelve months we have donated over $100,000 from our own funds, and worked hard to raise a further $50,000 which has been directly provided to community programs and grass roots causes.
Importantly, we the founders of Stone & Wood are still highly engaged in and excited by the work we and the highly capable team are putting in to build a sustainable independent brewing business that the good people of the Northern Rivers can be proud of.
We are more than happy with the personal return we get from the business, and are comfortable that it’s feeding our families and our souls.
We’re having more fun now than we ever have, there’s lots to do, and we’re more about buying, building and bolting things on than selling them. Our recent announcements about the launch of our business incubator, the new sales and distribution business, and the new cider business, are testament to that.
To put it simply, we aren’t going anywhere.
Jamie, Brad and Ross