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Moa sets its sights on being world famous outside of New Zealand, building a major iconic beer brand

Posted in Business
See video

By Andrew Patterson

It seems strange that in a nation of beer drinkers New Zealand doesn’t actually have its own distinctive international beer brand.

Think Mexico and you immediately associate it with Corona, or Fosters in Australia or even Kingfisher in India. Even Fiji has its traditional bitter. Lion Red it seems doesn’t quite cut it in upmarket New York and the origins of the Steinlarger brand name are German.

Moa wants to change that with a brand that cleverly uses the name of the country’s most well-known bird; after the kiwi of course; albeit an extinct one.

It has big plans to create a beer that doesn’t just taste good, but one that also becomes an iconic NZ brand globally.

Announcing its decision to IPO recently, Moa will become the first listed brewer to return to the main board of the NZX since the departure of Lion Nathan in 2009.

It’s been a fast and furious ride for the Moa brand since founder and Executive Brewer Josh Scott conceived then name in one of those quintessentially kiwi moments.

Early beginnings

As Chief Executive and serial entrepreneur Geoff Ross tells it, the story has already become part of Moa folklore.

“Josh had been doing his winemaking apprenticeship offshore and lot of the winemakers he came across, particularly in California’s Napa Valley, were also into brewing beer. They enjoyed the fact that after a hard day’s work in the vineyard they could sit down and have a cold beer, and a quality cold beer at that."

"So when Josh eventually made his way back to NZ he brought the idea home with him and started doing the same thing in Marlborough but didn’t have a name for his brand; even though it was starting to become quite popular with the locals. Coincidentally, he happened to discover one hot summers day that a couple of archaeologists were digging around at the end of his road and so he took them some of his beer and when he discovered they were looking for Moa bones it was then that the brand was conceived. That was in 2003."

Since then Moa has evolved into one of a growing number of craft beers that are redefining the category and catering for a new generation of discerning drinkers who are more willing to experiment with a range of different brands rather than remaining loyal to a particular favourite.

“Interestingly, Josh also lives next door to Cloudy Bay and that was always his vision to create a beer that was as successful as Cloudy Bay. He thought that Moa and its name and its prominence, origin and the whole methodology behind making the beer could be the foundation for a global beer brand from NZ. He was really one of the early pioneers of craft beer in this country.”

Competition

However, take a walk down the beer isle of most supermarkets these days and consumers are confronted with a staggering array of local and imported brews all vying for a place in the shopping trolley. Therefore, how do you stand out in the category?

It’s not something that concerns Geoff Ross, which potential investors in Moa will find comforting, given his former role as an advertising executive.

“What the supermarkets are starting to realise is that they can make a higher margin on one bottle of craft beer than a six pack of packaged beer, so they’re really starting to get interested in this space. So to an extent, at a retail level, it’s being driven by them but increasingly it’s also being driven by consumers who want quality over quantity. They’re also discovering there’s more to life and beer than just an ale or a larger a bit like when we began to work out that there’s more to wine than simply thinking of it as being red or while.”

“So while it is increasingly becoming a crowded category, offshore there remains an opportunity to create a distinctive NZ beer brand. The challenge to establish the brand in global markets will require capital, the skill to execute the marketing and branding strategy, distribution channels and really reaching consumers to secure their loyalty. All of those skills will be critical in gaining a decent chunk of market share.”

Customer retention

As any marketer will tell you, there’s a fine line between growing a brand and its profile and not alienating your existing customers who like the boutique nature of the brand just as it is. It’s a challenge that Moa is going to have to confront in the future as it moves into this next phase of its growth.

“There are risks around taking your existing customers with you on this next stage of our journey. However, you mitigate that risk by being true to your founding principles and not cutting corners. You keep brewing in Marlborough and you keep brewing the same way, that’s step one. Step two involves customers starting to realise that you can remain a craft beer and be really big and successful at the same time.”

“There are plenty of examples in the United States of craft breweries that are bigger than Lion Breweries and DB combined. They’re huge businesses, but they’re still viewed as craft brewers because of their quality methodology.”

Decision to IPO

At a time when cash reserves on corporate balance sheets are growing rapidly and lending rates have never been lower the decision by Moa to list the company on the NZX might fly in the face of conventional wisdom. But listing does have its advantages according to Geoff Ross.

“It does give us a reasonable chunk of capital because there is some impatience on our side for some fast growth and an IPO does allow you to do that. We’re planning to raise $16 million in the float of which $6 million will go towards building a new brewery because we need to significantly increase our production capacity. Right now, if we could make more beer we’d be selling more beer.”

“There are two other benefits of listing that people sometimes forget about. Firstly, it gives you credibility. So if we’re talking to a distributor in the U.S. and we rock up and say we’re listed on the New Zealand Exchange then all of a sudden we go from being seen as two guys out of a garage to someone at the business we’re visiting saying perhaps we should get the company president in for this meeting. So you do get taken more seriously. Secondly, it raises your profile; particularly with consumers.”

Risk profile

Coming at a time when listings on the NZX are at an all-time low and businesses are being risk averse in their outlook why is Moa prepared to run counter to the prevailing sentiment?

“We focus on our particular part of the world and we tend to ignore the problems in Spain and the slowing of growth in China. We’re targeting high end consumers in the U.S. for instance who are wanting a super-premium beer with Marlborough, NZ credentials and we’re getting great uptake in that sector.”

“That leads you to ask two key questions. Do we think craft beer is going to grow both in NZ and internationally and the answer to that is definitely yes. Secondly, do we think we have the ability to export a beer from NZ to other parts of the world that has a long shelf life, which previously it didn’t, and we believe we do; which is why we pulled the trigger on the listing.”

Any investment always contains an element of risk, particularly when businesses over promise and under deliver. Geoff Ross says it’s a lesson he learnt from his time with 42 Below that failing to deliver on your forecasts is the fastest way to lose the trust of investors.

“The risk for Moa is that we don’t end up growing as fast as we think we will. But we’ve done a huge amount of work to mitigate that risk. We’re very aware that as a listed company, if you give the public a number then you’ve got to hit it. So we’re very conscious of that and that’s what drives us and keeps us awake sometimes.”

“I’m also mindful of the fact that we [The Business Bakery] are not seen as a one hit wonder. Ecoya is off to a good start and growing strongly and early reaction to Moa is pretty good. We want to be seen as a group of business people who can grow a business offshore rather than a bunch of people who had a bit of fun creating a local vodka company, so it’s important that we string together a few success stories.”

Long term vision

While Moa might be in its infancy as a soon to be listed company there’s a definite long term vision for the brand that suggests it’s destined to remain a long term NZ based company.

“Every country has an iconic beer brand and we want Moa to occupy that space in the future. Right now there’s clearly a gap in the market for a beer like ours and we believe the combination our branding and our brewing technique to create a high quality product with a long shelf life are what sets us apart. So we think we have all the founding principles to create a really iconic international beer brand right here in NZ.

“While Steinlarger has achieved some good success previously, there’s always been the problem with the German name and their primary focus has been principally on the domestic and Australian markets. For us it’s the reverse. We see the US & UK as our primary markets because that’s where the growth will come from while simultaneously retaining a strong focus on our domestic market here.”

“While we do want broad consumer recognition domestically I would prefer to achieve the sort of success and positioning that Cloudy Bay has gained for itself where around 80% of its product is exported but it is also highly regarded domestically. So in an ideal world we want Moa to become the Cloudy Bay of craft beer.”

So while Steinlarger may have once conceived that catchy positioning line “... they’re drinking our beer here” the phrase might be more appropriately attributed to Moa in the future if those backing its high profile listing have their way.

KEY FACTS

Founded: 2003
Sector: Brewers / FMCG
Staff: 18
Turnover: $4.5 million (estimate y/e March 2013)
Annual growth rate: 100%
Biggest market: NZ
Fastest growing market: USA
Domestic : export: 80% : 20%
International offices: No
Profitable: Not yet
Ownership: Public from mid-Nov following listing on NZX
Other: Prospectus issued October

 

We welcome your help to improve our coverage of this issue. Any examples or experiences to relate? Any links to other news, data or research to shed more light on this? Any insight or views on what might happen next or what should happen next? Any errors to correct?

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17 Comments

Wake me once they make a

Wake me once they make a profit....
.............................................................................
From a different forum:

`Although this offer is a complete crock you can't help but admire their marketing skills. These types have got the blueprint nailed down pretty well actually:
- invest as little of their own money as possible, as late as possible before the IPO so not too much of their own cash is burned
- float the crappy business and get plenty of cash in the door at a ridiculous valuation so they won't need any more for a while (key: use brokers with network of retail punters for clients who don't know anything about how financial markets work)
- rip out heaps of fees in the float to recoup some of their previous investment
- set aside some cash to prop up the share price over the first 12 months so no-one feels too bad about life
- appoint themselves as the CEO at a whopping great salary
- on the business side of things, spend a heap of money buying market share and burning cash
- in 1-2 years time when the cash pile gets a bit low, buy a much better existing business in the same space that, when combined with the initially floated business, disguises how crappy the original business was (think Trilogy / Ecoya, and think Phoenix/Charlies)
- use this acquisition to raise more cash at another ridiculous valuation so they don't get too diluted
- sit back and pray that some idiotic corporate will have a strategic shocker when someone with an ego gets to the top and wants to complete a public takeover for their CV
That about right boys?`

 
 

A lovely review of sooo many

A lovely review of sooo many start ups Dukey .....well laid out and accurate.
 His first mistake for me ,was the choice of Moa.....a self fulfilling prophecy...?
 Stupid bird piss.

"The Duke" (above) nails

"The Duke" (above) nails every point exactly.
And any financial services company who recomends this to their clients should be led away in handcuffs.
 

and when we become profitable

and when we become profitable we will sell to the highest bidder and make plenty.
 

Which is a perfectly valid

Which is a perfectly valid exit strategy......any business person should have such a thing planned....even if its not until say 65.
 
regards

This to me is what NZ should

This to me is what NZ should be about in every sector.  Creating high quality and value boutique produce that targets ppl who are prepared to pay for that.....not producing the pee that best decribes lion <insert colour here>....good luck is all I can say.
regards
 

Good on you on the boutique

Good on you on the boutique thinking Stevo...but for me N.Z. needs another beer like Fonterra needs another udder....there are, and have been a number of boutique beers , ciders etc since the eighties, for the brand to achieve the staus it's owners desire, will involve compromise along the way together with a truckload of somebody elses money, this is a tough industry that looks to out muscle competition or just buy it up to shut it down.
A little older bud wisser. , on principle, I'd rather back a healthcare innovator.

yes, too many beers, I suppse

yes, too many beers, I suppse thats the beuaty of a "free" market, you jump in and make or not. I agree on the healthcare innovator btw....what I look at though is anywhere safe....time will tell.
regards

How much does it cost to ship

How much does it cost to ship a bit of carbonated sugar water in a glass bottle compared to shopping the malt that makes the sugar water? Therein lies the problem with the business model and why this isn't a good investement. The future of brewing is in decentralised tavern owned breweries where the punters get their beer poured strainght from the cask. (well keg, but you know what I mean:-) ). Was having this converstation yesterday with a craft beer bar owner.

Well maybe he's

Well maybe he's biased?
;]
but I do think things will become more localised though....on many levels, the unkown is the mix and how far. 
regards

This guy isn't a brewer, just

This guy isn't a brewer, just only serves craft beer so he knows a lot of the brewers around the country. There are some good brewers out there, try some of the ones on this list http://www.ratebeer.com/beer/country/new-zealand/148/ I have had about a dozen from amongst them and am starting to brew some comparable beers myself. Moa has a few on there, but they have a few duds also. Get yourself the Hopwired IPA, damn that is good.

An esitmated turnover of

An esitmated turnover of 4.5m, and these guys want to do an IPO, what a joke.
Take a walk around most light industrial areas and you will any number of companies easily outdoing that.  Compliance & auditing will eat up most of that, faster than a rat up a drainpipe.
I agree with the other comments here, this is cash grab, nothing more.

I have no problem with

I have no problem with telling friends overseas that Steinlager is our nation's " international " beer ......... no problem at all ....
 
....... and having scanned the Moa prospectous , you're doing alot of hoping and waiting that these guys will make a profit ... none is forecast for several years .... they do brew very good beer , exceptionally expensive beer ..... but the business isn't profitable .....
 
 Compare this to the majority of companies listed on the NZX , who do make profits , and do pay dividends to their shareholders .......
 
...... Moa ain't getting any Gummy munny !

moa is rubbish beer marketing

moa is rubbish beer
marketing marketing
rubbish beer
what will people  think, that we put up with beer like that iconic. very sad
epic pale ale, golden bear fat toad
real beer by brewers not marketing  

I did a tour of breweries in

I did a tour of breweries in Golden Bay/Tasman/Marlborough earlier in the year and was pretty impressed with the standard. Interesting you like Golden Bear as they were the only one whose range didn't impress me. But that is just my tastes, technically their beer was still good. Better than doing the vineyards I reckon :-)

Emersons of Dunedin.  Now

Emersons of Dunedin.  Now rhat is beer.
And you get a good drink for giving them your money.
Which is more than any would be shareholder in Moa will get.
they will have no money, no shares worth anything, an no decent beer either

Good stuff. Let`s talk about

Good stuff. Let`s talk about the actual product instead of the massive annual admin costs for Moa. After all, it`s the product that counts.
Ok, ah yes...Emerson`s Pilsener .....world class. And good value.
Moa St Josephs..... pretty good, but a very long way from a Westmalle Tripel. 
And yet... here are Moa thinking they can price their product on a par with belgian abbey ales that date back to the 15th Century.... when they`ve been brewing for all of eight years :[
If you think you can fool yank customers into buying `belgian style` beer at the same price as ACTUAL belgian beer,  then you`re gonna spend a stack of cash on shipping and warehousing all the way over there with f*ck all buyers at the other end...
Even with their standard issue beers, there`s no way in hell they can match US craft brew prices. Yes, the craft industry there is huge and still growing.... but Geoff, here`s the kicker.... over there it`s bloody CHEAP! Like eight bucks a 6 pack cheap...
 How much for 6 pack of Original here again?
http://www.regionalwines.co.nz/beer.aspx/moa-original---6-pack