The answer to that question was simple – we wouldn’t change our policy of excluding the products of the companies that spent most of the 20th century reducing the New Zealand brewing industry to a joke. (That’s Heineken-own DB and Kirin-owned Lion Nathan.)
This was pretty much non-news, but with the shock that the Emerson’s sale has caused, it has been seized upon in the media and generated some pretty bizarre responses in comments sections and social networking. Oddly about the only party that we had a constructive dialogue with yesterday regarding this was Emerson’s brewery itself.
So here is our rationale:
For nearly a century Lion Nathan and DB have employed business strategies that have set back the art and science of brewing in New Zealand and deprived consumers of choice. For example:
- They ensure that they have access to the New Zealand market in the form of shelf space and taps in bars by giving incentives to outlets. The effects are the exclusion of newcomers (new, small breweries) and the reduction of the New Zealand hospitality industry to a kind of serfdom in the service of the two breweries.
- They bought up and shut down every rival brewer in the country (except each other).
- Before the re-emergence of small breweries like Emerson’s they eliminated almost all stylistic diversity in New Zealand brewing.
- They misuse accepted terms for beer styles for marketing convenience and misuse intellectual property law.
- They brazenly exploit loyalties of the public to their regions while relocating production for convenience.
So it makes sense for the owners to sell. And the next time Richard Emerson’s chauffeur drops him off at Hashigo Zake and he descends the stairs in his crocodile shoes and fur coat and orders a plum wine, we’ll welcome him as warmly as ever.
Emerson’s beer will now have the access to market that they’ve been largely denied for twenty years. They will no longer rely on free houses to find customers for their beer. Or to put it another way, they don’t need the likes of Hashigo Zake any more. But fifty or sixty other breweries do.
And as soon as the proceeds of their sales go to a parent whose business practices I disapprove of, we’ll prefer to find other suppliers.
At the Emerson’s brewery production will probably have to expand as they find it much easier to sell beer. Their new owners will probably add millions of dollars of spending to an already eight-figure investment. But Lion Nathan have an obligation to maximise returns to their owners. So while everyone has said that it will be business as usual at the brewery, I don’t see how Lion Nathan’s obligation to make a profit and their track record suggest any outcome except meddling with the beer.
It’s not really that hard to see why we said what we did. But we’ve been accused of snobbery, possibly xenophobia (presumably because I insisted on referring to Lion Nathan as Kirin, to remind people where the profits go), being haters, being hipsters (!wtf?)… who knows what else.
But actually we were just being consistent. Excluding Lion & DB products has worked well for us and our customers and as much as we admire Richard and his company we aren’t about to change.