IBA reacts to the sale of Stone & Wood to Lion
The IBA are obviously saddened by the loss of Stone and Wood from our stable of indie brewers and of course as valued members of our association. Ultimately, the reality is that business owners need to make decisions every day on what is best for them, their shareholders and their staff.
The Stone & Wood team, including my predecessor Jamie Cook, have given a lot to our organisation and the industry as a whole and we will always be appreciative that they laid the foundation for the independent craft industry to flourish. Personally, I wish Jamie and the team nothing but the best and thank them for being an outstanding example for what indie brewers can achieve.
Moving forward, this transaction underlines the strength and growing importance of our industry. The growth of indie breweries is testament to the fact that consumer demand is driving growth so although this might appear to be a loss, it simply paves the way for others to grow to fill the void and to take advantage of the trend.
We know that Australians want greater connections to community, to the people that make their beer and to their local meeting places so the IBA will continue to move forward supporting our members who are delivering great beer and great experiences.
Brews News’ Editorial:
The one that was never going to happen
Today is a huge day for the Australian brewing industry. It’s hard to be dispassionate about such a momentous announcement. The immediate reactions I have encountered are ones of shock.
Firstly, to Brad, Jamie and Ross, the founders and creative forces behind Stone & Wood, congratulations. Few businesses have the impact on any industry, or product category, that Stone & Wood has had. And that is a huge achievement and proud legacy for any individuals. To them, all of the staff at Stone & Wood and the founders of the businesses that are part of Fermentum, congratulations.
But in that significance Stone & Wood has had on the industry also lies the impact that this announcement has to have as well.
Founded by three mates who “left a big corporate to do our own thing”, the business has always built its brand around being proudly independent, arguably much more so than any prior brewery to sell.
As the microbrewing industry has matured and grown and breweries have emerged and sold, reactions have tempered a little with each one as the expectation grew that it was inevitable when an indie grows.
But through all of that Stone & Wood flew the flag of independence from a very tall pole, not just representing the idea of independence but vocally championing its importance to the industry. It overtly said that growth while staying independent was possible. Stone & Wood would do it differently.
Not only did the business celebrate the value of independence, the company also constantly highlighted the negative impact of the alternative.
“The big guys are trying all sorts of U-turns,” Jamie Cook told the AFR several years ago.
“It’s a corporate comb-over by the big players as we like to call it here, and drinkers can see through it. People scratch back the label and can see the real story.”
“Drinkers are going in the opposite direction.”
Today the messaging around the sale is that Lion demonstrated it has similar values and this was the next natural step for the business.
Someone has made a U-turn. Time will tell who.
Regardless of what we as individuals feel about the business, the brand, the people and the beer, with so much of the campaign to support independence based around an emotional appeal to consumers, this sale can’t fail to have an impact in the marketplace. It makes a strong statement to consumers about the emotional cost of investing in a brand on the basis of its independence.
This is something that even Stone & Wood recognised when Pirate Life sold to CUB in 2017.
At the time Jamie Cook said the sale of 4 Pines, Feral and Pirate Life in quick succession will undoubtedly drive some cynicism and suspicion among consumers about the real motives of all independent breweries.
“People build these businesses based on trust between them and their loyal customers and drinkers,” he said.
“When a transaction like this happens, we know the brewery and the brand will pay the price, but so does the whole industry really.
“There’s a loss of trust between drinkers wanting to engage with small independent businesses on the basis that’s who they are and that’s who they represent. For them to all of a sudden use that loyalty to cash in their chips, that breaks the trust.”
This sale will have an impact.