EeBria was launched at the start of the craft beer boom, back in 2013. Labelling itself the ‘Etsy of alcohol’, the startup started off as a digital business selling craft beer directly from the brewer to the consumer.
In 2015, it went on to launch EeBria Trade, entering the wholesale market by sending alcohol fresh from brewers to more than 3,000 pubs, including BrewDog bars and Draft House. The company’s CEO and co-founder David Jackson, who was previously online marketing director for ticket marketplace Viagogo, says there is a definite focus on the “higher end” of the craft market but loves the opportunities the brand provides for smaller players.
“What I like about our model is tiny brewers that make excellent beer in a glorified shed have the exact same opportunities as the big breweries like BrewDog,” he tells Marketing Week.
Besides beer, the company also sells wine, cider, gin, vodka and real ale. EeBria takes a small percentage of every sale, and because it doesn’t have warehouses or the associated costs, it claims the fee is “a lot” smaller than traditional wholesalers, meaning breweries are getting paid more, while pubs are paying less.
To recruit new customers, the business focuses on digital marketing, attends industry events and runs a discovery club, which will recommend new beverages to try based on a person’s taste and budget.
Last week, Jackson spoke at digital agency Syzygy’s ‘Shaken, not stirred’ event to discuss how digital disruptors such as itself are challenging the big brands in the drinks industry.
For example, Heineken partnered with Deliveroo to launch a new brand – Brew House – through which consumers can order beer and cider made by Heineken via the Deliveroo app.
“We saw a real opportunity for a drinks company to collaborate with Deliveroo and grow within the delivery sector, bringing Heineken brands straight to consumers via a premium platform,” Heineken’s ecommerce strategy manager Nicola Harrison told Marketing Week at the time of the launch.
“Deliveroo’s premium offering and positioning has a great fit with Heineken’s premium portfolio, and with Deliveroo’s focus on delivering high-quality food and great experiences, this allows us to build on our association of beer and cider with food.”
When it comes to digital adoption within the alcohol industry, he admits there is a lot of innovation happening on the business-to-consumer side – but claims there’s no dominant player just yet.
“There are a lot of different retailers, clubs and subscriptions like Untapped. Even though there are many different ecommerce platforms out there, there is no major player. We also decided to go down the business-to-business side as there was very little innovation happening there, which now makes up the majority of our business,” he explains.
When questioned on alcohol behemoths catching up by launching their own offerings, Jackson insists he is not worried. That, he says, is down to consumer cynicism about the major brewers jumping on the craft bandwagon. For example, AB InBev faced heavy scrutiny when it bought Camden Town Brewery late 2015.
“Lots of consumers are wary about the craft beer space losing its authenticity. They want to know who they’re buying it from and see straight through some of the fake craft brands that the macro brewers are trying to capitalise on. If one of those entered the space, they would not get the [same] level of brewery adoption through the platform,” he says.
Jackson adds that even though the big beer companies can have a positive impact by introducing more people to the craft beer sector, altering a brand’s cost base will inevitably mean a loss of quality.
He explains: “If they heavily reduce the cost and quality, then it’s more of a problem as they will flood the market with cheap beer. An even bigger problem is the fake craft side. A large company that adds on its own craft range is not actually making beer that could be considered craft, they are just jumping on that bandwagon. They are literally just leaping onto a marketing term.”
Going forward, the brand is keen to establish more of a community around its brand, through online groups or forums. EeBria is also looking to launch its service in other countries to become “a proper worldwide marketplace”.
However, it has to face up to pressing concerns around potential price rises following the UK’s vote to leave the EU. Unlike multinational beer companies, craft brewers put more time and effort into finding quality ingredients, which are often overseas.
He concludes: “Brexit has put a spanner in the works, so it will be interesting to see how it impacts the beer sector as time goes on. We will see increases in the price of UK beers, because they’re importing expensive hops and kegs. We’ve not seen full impact yet – but we will just have to see how it plays out.”