CBC’s television series The Big Decision featured Aldergrove’s own Dead Frog Brewery in yesterday’s episode. The Big Decision is a recently created business oriented reality series where successful business people assess the investment potential of a struggling company (can they turn things around?). If you missed the show yesterday you can view the episode on-line here.
Apparently Dead Frog Brewery has been struggling financially and was in need of an estimated $500,000 to expand brewery capacity and properly grow their business. Jim Treliving, a successful Canadian businessman, saw potential in Dead Frog and decided the brewery was an investment worthy of his time and money.
Jim’s intent with Dead Frog is quite clear according to yesterday’s episode- grow the business and sell to a major. This is a relatively common exit strategy in the business world, but will this corporate vision be good news for British Columbia’s craft beer scene?
Dead Frog has never been at the forefront of the local craft beer movement. Instead of targeting beer geeks (and also passionate product evangelists) with hoppy IPA’s and other bold creations, Dead Frog has focused on light beer with their pepper lime lager and mandarin orange amber ale. Dead Frog does offer a number of beer fanatic friendly drinks in 650 ml bottles, but the quality and consistency of these offerings have always been lacking and appear to be an afterthought.
Bud Light Lime is a very successful product, but Bud Light Lime drinkers do not drink craft beer. Dead Frog is offering a product that competes directly with Bud Light Lime. Budweiser can produce a light lime flavoured lager at a much lower cost than Dead Frog and they can also properly support their products with international distribution and a multi-million dollar marketing budget. Dead Frog may offer a better quality and more natural product, but Dead Frog has never really had a chance. I hope Jim sees this and makes a change. Make great beer that beer drinker’s drink – simple.
The craft beer market segment has been growing for quite some time. Big beer companies know this and want in on the action. These industry giants lack the entrepreneurial spirit and passion for beer that only a craft brewery has. Macro brewers like to invest in (or buyout) successful craft breweries to help increase sales and possibly add some much needed passion into a stale industry.
Jim’s strategy is to turn Dead Frog into a successful business – can’t argue with this strategy. Dead Frog will need to post impressive numbers year over year (double digit growth) in order to attract attention from a major brewer. Dead Frog needs to sell more beer.
Do craft beer drinkers buy light lime lager? Not really. I believe Dead Frog has no choice but to take a step back and realign their product strategy with market demands. Doing so will give Dead Frog the best chance at success.
The more successful craft breweries British Columbia can support the better, but in order to survive breweries must offer a world class product.