Marston's has launched a company to give small breweries a direct route to market and boost the range of craft beers offered in ­supermarkets.

The Craft Beer Company will operate separately to Marston's brewing and pub divisions to offer smaller brewers resources including higher brewing volumes and distribution.

Harviestoun Brewery in Scotland, Mordue Brewery and White Horse Brewery have already joined as partners and Marston's hopes to recruit a further three to four brewers over the coming months. Many of these are likely to be businesses the brewer already works with, for example on bottling, but this was not ­exclusively the case, said Marston's production and logistics director Richard Westwood.

The new venture would help Marston's improve ­efficiency in its own operations and make more beers available in the supermarkets in particular international beers which, aside from Continental European beers, were notably absent from the fixure said Westwood.

The company is in advanced talks with a US brewer regarding UK distribution and hopes to expand into importing international beers that "fulfil the craft beer niche".

The Society of Independent Brewers, which has its own direct-­to-delivery scheme primarily in the on-trade said it ­welcomed any initiative that improved market ­access for its members.