DAN WAINWRIGHT Updated: May 26, 2017
The mountains are a draw to Vancouver, there’s no denying it. The ocean is magnificent, the seawall is one of a kind, Stanley Park is a national treasure and the air is crisper than anywhere else in Canada. But if there is one thing we’ve become known for above all else in recent memory, it’s craft beer.
The 8th annual Vancouver Craft Beer Week kicked off May 26. With over 100 craft breweries pouring more than 300 unique beer and cider samples, the local market is showing no signs of cooling off.
Nationally, B.C. craft beer has long been considered the crème de la crème. From gritty East Van breweries like Parallel 49, to the aesthetically pleasing bottles of Postmark, our local craft-beer scene has become synonymous with satisfied palates throughout the province — and has provided a relatively overlooked boon for our economy along the way.
With more than 150 craft breweries across B.C. and $1.1 billion in annual revenue, the B.C. craft-beer industry is projected for 2.6-per-cent annual growth by 2020. But that growth hasn’t come without challenges.
For years, local brewers have faced a host of expansion issues, predominantly around capacity. As brewers grow and require additional capacity, they either expand into new spaces or install more tanks in existing facilities. But scaling-up volume impacts profit margins by increasing costs: new tanks and staff, logistical support, warehousing and ingredient contracts create issues around cash flow, investment and lower product margins. As a result, brewers are forced to seek significant financial investment or corporate buyouts.
As popular as craft beer is locally, the B.C. market is both limited and saturated. Brewers are focused on what they do best — brewing great beer — which leaves international markets rife with opportunity.
That is where Pacific Rim Distribution Co. comes in.
We are brand-builders at heart, and help local brewers find foreign markets for their product. Pacific Rim Distribution handles essential aspects of the export process, as well as identifying and securing the right partnerships with national and regional distributors in Asia. We then work closely with local breweries to ensure we launch the right strategy and support local-market activities.
Over the past year we began partnering with a selection of six local craft breweries at various stages of their business development life cycles. We also worked collaboratively with trade commissioners abroad and the B.C. government to help grow our region’s economy and expand this industry globally.
The result has been greater financial certainty for local breweries and a business model that will enable the B.C. craft-beer industry to continue growing. This approach has begun to introduce B.C. craft beer to global markets, one pint at a time.
Uniquely positioned on the shores of the Pacific Ocean, we have also been able to leverage favourable economics stemming from proximity to export infrastructure. We live in a port city and benefit from the efficient and effective movement of goods across the region. Our craft-beer exports are shipped in 40-foot, refrigerated containers through the Port of Vancouver to destinations across the Pacific Rim, including Singapore, Hong Kong, China and Thailand, with significant potential in seven other Asian markets. Thanks to a great product and strong export capacity B.C. craft beer can now be enjoyed from a Granville Island patio to a southern Thailand beach.
For Canadian travellers on business or pleasure, spotting a small reminder of home in a foreign land, including a local craft beer, always evokes a sense of pride. At Pacific Rim Distribution we take tremendous pride in helping bring these unique B.C. brews and blends to enthusiasts around the world.
At home, we will be toasting to fine ingredients and meticulous craft alongside 15,000 other beer enthusiasts this week at the Vancouver Craft Beer Week, because at the end of the day, it’s all about taste. And nobody does it better than B.C.
Dan Wainwright is president of Vancouver-based Pacific Rim Distribution Co., a leading global-exportation and distribution firm for Pacific Northwest craft beer and fine spirits.