For beverage alcohol marketers, the global profile of the Fancy Food Show often serves as a platform for international brands to broaden their distribution not just in the U.S., but in multiple regions abroad.
Broughton Ales, a small independent brewery in the idyllic countryside of the Scottish Borders, has a presence in the U.S., but its biggest export market is Italy. It also does some business in Japan—itself a booming craft beer market—as well as South America. For the Chile market in particular, sales manager Bret Retallick says the brewery is developing a zero-percent alcohol by volume brew to accommodate a recent change in that country’s drinking laws. “In Chile you can no longer have a little drink and drive,” explains Retallick. “It’s a zero-tolerance rule. But people still want a premium product.”
Broughton markets nine products: Dark Dunter, with notes of malty roasted chocolate; the pale, hoppy Merlin’s Ale; Exciseman’s 80 Shilling, a classic Scottish ale with a pronounced toffee-like flavor; the golden, floral Willacade; Scottish Oatmeal Stout; the classic pale ale The Ghillie; the dark reddish Black Douglas; the organic blond Border Gold and the malty, deep-copper Greenmantle.
Retallick, a U.S. expat, says the brewery continues to tweak and experiment to satisfy a range of beer tastes in Broughton’s home market and around the world.
“There’s a big separation in Scotland,” explains Retallick. “There are the ale drinkers, who tend to be 55 and over—a huge market, your dad, your grandfather. Then there’s the younger market, like you see [in the U.S.], 30 and below, who like big, hoppy robust beers that give you a lot of kick. The older drinkers tend to like the smoother, more balanced-style ales. You can tell in our beers they’re very smooth, non-offensive. So I’m looking to develop some recipes that are offensive—big and hoppy and over the top.”
For instance, the brewery is toying with the idea of taking the 4.2 percent ABV Merlin and amping it up to 7 percent and calling it something like “Mad Merlin.”
“With Dark Dunter, we might bring it to 8 percent and put in some espresso beans to make it really chocolaty,” he says.
Coffee beans are downright mainstream beer ingredients when you compare them with the key component of another brew being sampled at the Fancy Food Show: sweet potatoes. That’s the backbone of Beniaka, the latest offering from Kawagoe, Japan-based brewery Coedo. It’s a common base ingredient in sho-chu, but not so much in beer. “There is a culture in Japan for making alcohol from sweet potatoes,” says Coedo president and CEO Shigeharu Asagiri. “We are located in the northern part of Tokyo and in our region there is no sho-chu culture. That’s why we decided to use the sweet potatoes to make beer.” But it’s not just roasted sweet potatoes in the recipe. Coedo still uses barley malt in the brew, as it contains the enzyme that converts the starch to sugar.
Another of Coedo’s newest products is Kyara, which has a hoppier profile than some of the brewery’s other offerings.
“We use special hops to make this beer,” Asagiri says. “It’s not an [India Pale Ale] because we’re good at making lager, so we use a lager yeast to make this beer. Because Japanese food is not that heavy, you need a nice balance with beer, a nice aroma, flavor and after taste.”
Currently Coedo distributes in major markets on the East and West Coasts of the U.S.—primarily New York City and Los Angeles—but the brewery is looking to expand into the Midwest.
Of course beer is not the only brewed alcohol beverage in Japan and the one the country is more famous for—sake—was poised to expand its profile worldwide after the Fancy Food Show. Michael John Simkin, who reps the 222-year-old Ichishima Sake Brewery (Shibata City, Japan) in the U.S., didn’t know what to expect when the brewery contacted him and asked him to man a table at the Washington, D.C. trade show. “I thought, ‘We’re already in the states, what are we going to accomplish?’” Simkin recalls. “I’ve got an importer, I’ve got distributors in 40 states.”
But he was surprised by the number of opportunities that arose from non-U.S. countries.
“There were two guys from India who spent, like, 45 minutes at my table,” he notes. “These guys really want to bring sake to India. So the biggest plus has been having importers from other countries drop by the table.”
Possibly what caught their eye was its label, which underwent a massive redesign about a year and a half ago. “It’s supposed to represent a very modern rendition of the flow of water, the flow of sake,” Simkin explains. Of course, words don’t do it justice, so look at the bottle image to draw your own conclusions.
And for the liquid refreshment side of the 2012 Summer Fancy Food Show, check out the Non-Alcohol Trends section in this issue. And visit specialtyfood.com for information on the Winter Fancy Food Show next January in San Francisco and the 2013 summer edition, which returns to New York City next June after a couple of years away.