Brewery sector will see ‘casualties’ as competition ramps up

Ilkley Brewery founder Chris Ives
Ilkley Brewery founder Chris Ives
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Increased competition is likely to lead to consolidation in the brewing industry, the founder of Ilkley Brewery has said.

Chris Ives launched the business in 2009, building it to a £1.6m-turnover company that sells 22 keg, cask and bottled beers.

Yesterday, it was announced Mr Ives would exit the business as part of a takeover deal with Leeds-based Half Full Beer Co, which was founded by former Ilkley Brewery manager Luke Raven.

Mr Ives said the brewing industry has “transformed itself” in the last six years, but there is increased competition as a result.

He told The Yorkshire Post: “It’s inevitable the number of new breweries will slow down, because there are fewer pubs and more breweries. It’s going to become more competitive.

“The ones that are going to survive are the ones that have a good brand and good beers and staff that are passionate about what they do.”

“There are going to be some casualties because it is more competitive.”

He added: “The people who work at the brewery are all really passionate about what Ilkley Brewery does.

“If you keep brewing good beer and you have passionate staff then I’m sure Ilkley and others in Yorkshire will do really well.”

The takeover deal was the culmination of a five-year plan to exit the business, Mr Ives said.

He said: “The business had come to a bit of a crunch. It needed more money to expand or it needed to diversify.

“I didn’t have the appetite to put more money in and we looked at other ways to raise funds and one of those was to sell.”

Mr Ives and investors Glentrool Capital Partners decided a sale was “the best route to bring fresh impetus into the business”, he said.

Half Full Beer Co was founded by Mr Raven, who spent almost four years at Ilkley to March.

Ilkley Brewery director Richard Shelton will remain in post at the business, which now sells its beers in Marks & Spencer, Sainsbury’s, Asda, Morrisons, Co-op and Booths and pubs across the UK, as well as 10 countries internationally.

Half Full plans to immediately increase brewing capacity at the craft beer specialist, doubling production within two years.

While Half Full initially planned to launch a rival brewery, it will now focus on growing its established beer brand.

Mr Raven said that investment in Ilkley will be prioritised over the planned brewery launch.

He said: “The more we’ve looked at the project, the more excited we’ve been about the potential here for Ilkley Brewery.

“It’s grown massively in the last few years.

“We’re really confident and keen to grow it even more.”

He added: “The brewery has been operating at full capacity for some time now.

“Our plans are to immediately increase production; we’ll be ordering new brewing kits very soon to increase capacity on the existing site and we’ll also start looking for an additional site to help ease the pressure.”

Half Full plans to add around five positions at Ilkley in the short-term, with more extensive recruitment planned for the second site, he added.

Paul Nolan, from Glentrool, said the firm’s investment in Ilkley had been “very successful”.

He said: “[It] generated upper quartile returns, resulting in its performance attracting a number of suitors.”

Lupton Fawcett Denison Till, Glentrool Capital Partners and Garbutt & Elliot, Bury & Walkers and GBAC advised on the deal.

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Ilkley Brewery was founded in January 2009 by Chris Ives and Stewart Ross.

Just nine months later, its flagship brew Mary Jane won a Society of Independent Brewers (SIBA) Gold Medal.

In 2011, Ilkley struck a debt-and-equity deal with Glentrool Capital Partners, allowing it to move site and almost quadruple output to 23,000 pints a week.

The brewery rebranded in 2012, began exporting and was recognised as one of the UK’s fastest-growing companies, winning the Government-backed National Local Business Accelerator scheme.

Co-founder Mr Ross left the business that year, moving to nearby Wharfedale Brewery.