Authenticity finds a niche
Technology advancements have given us 3-D TVs, virtual tradeshows and smartphones with electronic personal assistants, but it’s a shame that this magazine does not have an interactive smell component this month. If this issue of Beverage Industry were equipped with even a scratch-and-sniff sticker, the Dogfish Head Craft Brewery Plant Focus article on page 37 would smell like chai tea.
Yes, the brewery smelled like a mixture of tea, cardamom, cinnamon, cloves, ginger and pepper — not beer — because when Beverage Industry visited the Milton, Del., brewery, Dogfish Head was working on its Ancient Ale variety Sah’tea. Slated for release this month, Sah’tea contains rye, juniper and black chai tea and, in accordance with the 9th century Finnish recipe on which it’s based, uses white-hot river rocks to boil the mixture during brewing. Sam Calagione, founder and president of the brewery, admits that he’s proud of Dogfish Head’s place in the industry and its continual growth, but that the aromatic smell of spiced tea in the brewery is particularly special to him.
Another element that sets Dogfish Head apart in its category is that the company regales when its flagship 60 Minute IPA’s domination decreases. In 2011, 60 Minute IPA captured 48 percent of the brewery’s sales, which is a 3 percent drop from three years ago, Calagione says. The company’s president sees this as a signal of the strength for Dogfish Head’s portfolio of 34 packaged beer releases.
The priority of portfolio performance is not limited to breweries. In this month’s Up Close With article on Honeydrop Beverages (page 40), the company’s founder and chief executive officer David Luks notes that the best-seller among its six SKUs, Blood Orange, makes up just 20 percent of Honeydrop’s overall sales.
To grow its brand, Luks focuses Honeydrop’s outreach on natural foods outlets where informed shoppers might be on the lookout for products featuring honey. Products and companies with non-traditional priorities are appealing to a growing sect of consumers who are looking for alternatives to corporate products. Nick Benz, chief operating officer at Dogfish Head, says he is part of this emerging consumer group.
“There’s all kinds of taglines associated with it, but people who value that there’s a greater good in their purchase decision,” Benz says. “It’s bigger than just the brand that it is; it’s what’s behind that. There’s a greater good. Maybe they have an environmental cause; maybe it’s a civic cause; maybe they have a phenomenal employee program. There’s something else there besides perfect profits and shareholders.”
Benz not only personally participates in the movement, but believes that Dogfish Head is part of the creation of “an economy based on independence and authenticity” that transcends traditional demographics. Although this philosophy might not be surprising from an executive at a company that makes beer with chai tea, it is a movement that’s brewing across the country.