Derbyshire craft brewery Thornbridge plans to invest up to £10m in expansion over coming years, doubling its capacity as it ramps up its presence in the off-trade.
The business would look to install new top-end canning lines, tanks, an event space and a new brewhouse with an eye to cementing its place in retail, CEO Simon Webster told The Grocer. Expansion will take Thornbridge’s capacity from roughly 39,000hl per annum to about 80,000hl. The brewery had already ploughed around £2m into its facilities over the past two years, Webster added.
The off-trade was “absolutely” becoming more of a priority for the business, which is set to launch four new SKUs into Tesco next months, including a collaboration with recently sold London craft brewer Fourpure.
“We are working closely with everyone - save Sainsbury’s - at the moment,” Webster said. “Last year, we brought in a state-of-the-art bottling line at a time when everyone was jumping into cans with some machines which we suggested weren’t actually that great at looking after beer. We said we wouldn’t until we could afford a canning line that’s as good as our bottling line.”
Thornbridge will finance its expansion primarily with traditional borrowing, although Webster did not rule out a potential sale to a larger entity.
“We’ve always said we’d be open to the possibility.” he said. “As you can imagine over the years we’ve had many, many conversations with people who are interested. But they would have to be a good fit for us, a cultural fit and someone who can help us move forward.”
The full investment and upgrade could take up to five years, he suggested. “But we’re not planning on going anywhere.”
The news comes as Thornbridge is expanding its estate of bars. Last month, it announced it had partnered with craft beer pub group Pivovar with an eye to opening 10 new sites across the UK over the next five years. The first will open its doors in Birmingham city centre this autumn, and another has been secured in York to open by the end of this year. Properties in London, Manchester, Brighton and Leeds are also being considered.