A year has passed since we last spoke to Alastair Hook, founder and owner of Meantime Brewing Company, and it's been a jam-packed, if somewhat mixed, 12 months. "The main change has been a 30% increase in our own branded range," Hook says. "We lost our contract brewing business with Greene King, which has its own bottling facility, so it was important we made this up with our branded lines. This has mainly come with our work with Sainsbury's Taste the Difference range, which is going through a rebranding."
In May, Sainsbury's also started stocking the India Pale Ale and London Porter lines, Meantime's two flagship beers, which previously were only available in the US.
Other new contracts include a listing in Waitrose for Meantime's Coffee Beer and last year the company's Pale Ale won a six-month listing with Asda as part of its annual beer competition. Hook was also discussing a listing in Unwins until its collapse put a stop to that.
On-trade sales are also very strong. "We've seen major growth in our on-trade draught beer, which is available in several key pubs now. There's definitely a trend growing for specialist, niche beer products."
New lines have been developed, including a Raspberry Grand Cru beer, and awards have continued to come. "Our Coffee Beer won gold at the World Beer Cup in Seattle in April and our Cologne Style lager and Bavarian Wheat Beer both won at the Q Drink Awards in June. Volumes are up, which is very important when you're focusing on quality."
Looking ahead, Hook says: "We expect a lot more growth in the on-trade, but we also want to continue looking for smaller specialist off-trade outlets.
"We've invested a lot in technology in the past year, so to pay for that we need to increase our higher margin products, which means branded lines."