I have previously explained that craft brewery collaborations are typically formed through a combination of serendipity, capability, and friendship. In that article, I focused on the form of craft brewery collaboration with which most of us drinkers are familiar — the collaboration brew. However, I concluded by expressing a view that there are opportunities for other forms of collaboration. The types of collaboration identified by craft brewers, during my PhD research, could be broadly organised into two categories: intensification and diversification.
(Main photo credit / Sophia Stace)
Intensified collaboration refers to formal inter-brewery partnerships. These involve more transacting than might be involved in a collaboration brew, where recipes and processes are shared or collectively formulated. Examples of intensified collaboration included craft breweries sharing marketing activities, research and development, distribution channels, and supply channels. Smaller breweries expressed the most enthusiasm for intensified collaboration because they enable the sharing of limited resources and risk. However, craft brewers also advised that while intensified collaboration is desirable, it is not widely capitalised on in the industry.
It seems likely intensified collaboration is not widely leveraged because it represents a partnership too intense for otherwise competing craft breweries. While craft breweries appear naturally collaborative, there are limits to levels of engagement. There is also, presumably, an issue of co-ordination in facilitating and managing intensified forms of collaboration. Nonetheless, the opportunity remains for those craft brewers willing to profoundly share time and resources. It is plausible that intensified collaboration would enable craft breweries to capture market share from corporate breweries and, thereby, grow the craft industry. In other words, there appears to be a clear collective rationale for intensified collaboration that is not being broadly realised.
Diversified collaboration refers to formal partnerships between craft breweries and non-brewery organisations. While conducting my PhD research, I identified five such examples of diversified collaboration: (1) a collaboration with a boutique soft-drinks manufacturer, (2) a winery collaboration, (3) a confectioner collaboration, (4) a collaboration with a festival organiser, and (5) a whisky distillery collaboration. The composition of a diversified collaboration is virtually limitless. In theory, a craft brewery could form a collaboration with any and all types of business. However, there are two commonalities in different types of diversified collaborations. The first is an overlap, even slight, in existing knowledge. For example, there are similarities in process between the production of beer and soft drinks, wine, and whisky. This means that collaborators are able to proceed with a shared appreciation, or understanding, of one other’s business. Collaborators can each, therefore, meaningfully contribute to the partnership. A shared platform of knowledge can be considered a facilitator of diversified collaboration in this instance. The second commonality in diversified collaboration represents the rationale — a desire to increase market share.
Diversified collaborations represent an opportunity for breweries to deliver their product to a non-craft beer-drinking audience. In the winery and whisky collaborations, for example, breweries were able to market their beer to new audiences, and drinkers of the particular winery or whisky distillery may gravitate towards a beer brand associated with a brand they recognise. In other words, a craft brewery can become legitimised in other markets by associating with established brands in said markets. Legitimacy is similarly achieved in the cases of the soft-drink collaboration and the confectioner collaboration. These are distant markets when compared to wine and whisky yet serve the same purpose. When the confectionery or soft-drink consumer purchases a beer, they become inclined to purchase one associated with brands they already recognise and consume. Unsurprisingly, the reverse of this relationship is also true. As craft beer consumers, we may become inclined to purchase products that have been associated with our favourite beers. Diversified collaboration, is, therefore, an opportunity to expand craft brewery market share. However, attracting a diversified collaboration partner may not always be possible, especially for craft breweries located remotely.
Every case of diversified collaboration I detected during my research occurred between a brewery and a closely located business. The close proximity of collaborators suggests that serendipity plays a central role in the formation of diversified collaboration. In other words, these collaborations may not be intentionally sought after as much as they occur by happenstance. For smaller, distantly-located, craft breweries — and we do have quite a few in Aotearoa —attracting a collaboration partner can be a challenge. That said, collaboration can also be a challenge for a broader set of reasons.
Time and resource constraints are the enemy
In this article and my previous one, I outlined collaboration types and factors that support it. Collaboration was central to my PhD research, and I thoroughly believe it is the mechanism through which craft brewing will continue to grow. However, craft breweries are typically time and resource-poor organisations. Brewing phenomenal beer for us drinkers is a demanding process — so much so that it prevents breweries from committing to the types of collaboration they might otherwise pursue.