Tactics are straightforward for giants and niche players but middle ground players find strategies trickier says Tim Palmer Success in the Scottish brewing industry can be a question of size. Biggest of them all is Scottish Courage, which until the successful takeover of Bass by Interbrew, remains the UK's largest brewer. As such it plays on a national and international stage against global competition. It has the muscle to put heavyweight marketing initiatives in place to ensure its brands such as Foster's, John Smith's, Beck's and McEwan's can claim their places on the beer shelves. The smaller micro brewers such as Harviestoun can carve out profitable businesses from niches which require individual care and flair and which larger companies do not wish to spend so much effort on. But the market gets tougher for operators such as Caledonian and Belhaven who have the middle ground. They do not have the muscle of Scottish Courage or Bass to command an easy route to listings, but it is not cost-effective for them to run a myriad of small brands catering for limited specific needs. Being Scottish is not necessarily an asset. Chris Anderson, marketing manager at Belhaven says: "We find it quite difficult to expand because we are a Scottish regional brewer. "We do well in Scotland because 70% of the pubs are free traders. In England it is much more difficult because of the ties nature of the on-trade. The only product we have on national listings is an own label with Asda." In Scotland the company supplies the major multiples and sells through Booker. But it is now working on some new product development to break down the resistance south of the border. Its problem is that the market for Scottish beers is mopped up by Tartan and McEwan Export. Anderson says: "We have not had much new product development for a while. We have tried but we have not had the right product at the right time." Caledonian, too, has had its problems and took its eye off the ball a few years ago. Sales director Stephen Crawley says: "We were doing well three years ago but we were not concentrating on our strongest brands." So a strategic review took place and products were delisted. "We are now growing the business back up again, having expanded our on-trade sales force and handed the off-trade business to Wychwood. "This gives our brands a better chance of getting in front of the buyers, and has begun to pay dividends." The focus has been put on three brands, Caledonian 80/-, which has widespread distribution in the Scottish market, Deuchars IPA and Golden Promise. Deuchars is the biggest cask brand north of the border and is developing a credible business in clear bottles in England. Golden Promise was one of the first organic beers 10 years ago and is about to be rejuvenated. "The brand is about quality and flavour which is what consumers are demanding. We can prove to the English that the Scots can produce decent beer." The scale of Scottish Courage takes it beyond such parochial considerations. Trading director GordonJohncox says: "In today's technologically advanced world, location plays little importance. Nearly 85% of our take-home beer business is outside Scotland, although Scotland is very important in terms of consumption and our business. "We are the only major player in the UK beer market to be based in Scotland and if the acquisitions by Interbrew of Bass and Whitbread both receive regulatory approval, we will be the only major UK owned brewer. "Yet we have not only UK but international ties through our recent acquisition of Danone, and through our licensing agreements with Beck's, Foster's and Miller. "Having a product that people want to buy makes location irrelevant. We have an incredibly strong portfolio ­ with a beer to suit every consumer for every occasion. "Brands that are particularly relevant to Scotland, such as McEwan's and Miller, to ones that have a strong following south of the border like Courage and internationals such as Foster's." At the other end of the scale is Harviestoun. Ken Brooker started the business 16 years ago but it has really only started to fly in the last six. "This is directly related to the amount of cash available for expansion and development," he says. "The speed of growth is greater if you have the money to put in. But things have been getting better and better. "We have been winning competitions and the demand is there. Then we make more money and put it back into the business. "It is all about cashflow. When you are small the resources are limited." Brooker has been turning competition winning into an art. He has just won the Tesco Winter Beer Challenge for small brewers with a product with the working title of Old Engine Oil. This gives him a guaranteed national listing with the multiple and is the second time he has won the competition. Liberation Champion Ale won last spring and is still being listed. Meanwhile Harviestoun's Bitter and Twisted cask ale was voted champion beer of Scotland by Camra, and the bottled version is listed in Safeway north of the border. The 4.8% Schiehallion consistently wins gold medals at the Great British Beer festival and gained a national listing with Sainsbury this summer. At the same time Brooker does a significant volume of own label business with the major chains. The continued success has led him to contract out his brewing to other Scottish brewers. {{}}