Interviews

“We have got louder and are doing more”: How Beavertown pivoted to see exponential growth under lockdown

Beavertown’s Founder Logan Plant and Marketing Director Tom Rainsford share how the brand has chosen to pivot and look for the positives to drive growth in lockdown.

Izzy Ashton

Deputy Editor, BITE

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“Everybody’s got their own set of circumstances but I’m lucky,” says Logan Plant, as he discusses what it’s been like to steer Beavertown, the brewery company he founded in 2011, through the ongoing crisis.

He chats from his family home in London as he elaborates on how he and his wife have been balancing working full time with home-schooling their two children, aged 12 and 13. His luck, he feels, stems from having both an outside space and an unwavering positive outlook on the future of his business. Tom Rainsford, Beavertown’s Marketing Director echoes this sentiment: “We all have up and down moments, but we have to be grateful for what we have,” he adds.

But while as individuals they are coping, as a business operating in an industry which has been firmly shuttered for the last few months, the initial stages of lockdown were precarious. When the government shut pubs and bars, Plant says Beavertown, as a heavily on-trade driven business, “lost probably 85% of our business.”

He says that seminal, and instantaneous, moment came as a shock, but the business reacted immediately. As Plant explains: “you’ve got to be about to morph and pivot and look for those positives and those opportunities.”

The brand’s fundamental pivot was an immediate shift from keg to can as Beavertown worked with its off-trade partners to increase supply to meet the demand that they were hoping to find. The decision paid off; on-trade, Planet says, has “grown 100% in that time.”

Notably the business’s shift was not solely focused on the bottom-line. Granted keeping the company going was front of mind, but equal importance was given to keeping the team safe, retaining staff and supporting customers. He says the business also wants to examine how it can help its bar and pub partners both while they remain closed but also as they start to get going again. A proportion of the Beavertown staff have been on furlough but Plant is “really positive and I’m really proud of what we’ve done,” when it comes to keeping every one of the business’ 130 staff members in a job.

“As Beavertown, it’s proven that we, as a fast-growing company, we can still be agile, and we can still be flexible,” explains Plant. “As a team it’s been exhausting but really stimulating.”

It’s been about trying to find the positives and keeping people positively engaged with what we’re doing.

Logan Plant

Connecting directly with the consumer

Under lockdown, direct to consumer has been a marketing channel that has seemingly, for many brands, emerged out of necessity. But it’s one that has the power to shift Beavertown’s entire strategy as Plant explained: “[our web shop] went from a little cottage industry into what is now a pretty tight, industrial outfit, and is our second biggest income, pretty much, behind the grocers.”

For Beavertown, the DTC offering on its web shop has been, says Plant, “a real revelation.” Prior to lockdown, a team of two ran the shop; there are now eight people running its day-to-day operations. And it’s seen phenomenal growth, as Plant adds, “it’s grown 1,000% per week, if not over. It’s been mad!”

Rainsford elaborates on how, while the growth of DTC has been a moment of excitement for the brand, it has also been one in which the business has had “to refocus and quickly scale the channel to cope with demand.” As Plant adds, “everybody’s still gasping for a drink.”

Plant shares the “symbiotic relationship” that the brand has found itself in with beer lovers in the UK and he values the connection this new online channel has created. “For us as a brand that means that we’ve got direct contact to [the consumer] which is everything that we want,” he adds. But as the buying habits of the public changes, perhaps for the long-term, he says, “for us the biggest learning is how do we maintain what we’ve found, what we’ve unearthed?”

Innovation under lockdown

Whilst lockdown has been anything other than smooth sailing for businesses and individuals alike, what it is demonstrating is that innovation and creativity are still at the heart of running a successful company. “We haven’t sat back and thought crumbs let’s tighten things up,” says Plant. “If anything, we’ve got louder and are doing more,” adds Rainsford.

Instead, what the brand has tried to do, Plant explains, is “really taking people on a proper Beavertown journey. Obviously built on beer but then so much more around it.” Rainsford puts it as “brand shifting from advertisers to content producers,” something Beavertown have embraced with their own marketing activity under lockdown. “Our key value is about creating conversation,” Plant adds.

The brand’s marketing has diversified into new offerings, from a weekly newsletter to Instagram sessions on Fridays, live gigs and tasting evenings. “[We’re] making the positives out of the moments that we’ve got,” says Plant of the activity. Beavertown is also part of the Covid Arms, a virtual pub that broke Guinness World Records earlier in lockdown for having over 6,000 people in one night at the ‘pub’. Profits from the events have been going to the National Emergencies Trust and the Trussell Trust - Beavertown works with the trust’s arm in Tottenham.

Alongside diversifying the brand’s marketing activity, the business has also launched two new beers under lockdown. The first was Nanobot, a 2.8% “super crushable” session IPA, a launch that had been in the pipeline pre-lockdown. The second was Staycation, a one-off beer that, says Plant, is “about celebrating having a vacation in the UK at home.” All profits from Staycation are going to the Trussell Trust.

“It’s been about trying to find the positives and keeping people positively engaged with what we’re doing,” explains Plant. But while he is excited by much of the work the business is doing, he adds, that, ultimately, “our brand has been built on the bar so we can’t wait for the pubs and the bars to open again.”

It’s redundant thinking to believe that one business can have all the answers to all the questions.

Tom Rainsford

Collaboration breeds creativity

The power of collaboration under crisis has been pronounced over the last few months as businesses have switched up their offerings to help where they can. Plant, who is from the Midlands, cites a small company from his hometown that has pivoted from making football strips for Sunday League teams to producing scrubs for six or seven local hospitals. “It’s about [using that] expertise and energy positively,” he adds.

Both Rainsford and Plant speak about the collaboration that forms the backbone of the craft beer industry. As Plant says, “to us it’s been pretty natural, and I think it will continue to be part of our genetic thread.” Collaboration breeds creativity but it also challenges what is already happening, forcing businesses, and teams, to be and do better.

As Rainsford says, “Great things can come from collaboration but to many businesses, it may not come naturally. It’s redundant thinking to believe that one business can have all the answers to all the questions.” That is particularly true of the landscape through which businesses find themselves wading at this moment in time.

Looking ahead to raising a pint

“It would be lovely to think that businesses and people can reflect on this difficult period and take forward new ways of thinking rather than falling back on historic practices and processes, many of which were outdated anyway,” says Rainsford as the conversation turns to the future.

Plant says that the last few months have been a time of intense and rapid learning and development for both the business and for him as a founder. But, as he believes, “it’s shown that as long as you don’t rest on your laurels, and you’re always looking outward, you can get through serious situations like this together.” 

His advice to a nation beginning to emerge from lockdown? “Look within. Be proud of what you’ve achieved. Be proud of yourself. Be proud of your neighbours, be proud of your friends and your family.” He cites the sacrifice that people are making as a moment to stop and reflect on what the nation has, and is still continuing to, come through.

Plant says that there is a lot about the pint of beer that becomes a symbol for many of the things we all crave as lockdown begins to lift: “happiness, good times and positivity.” As Plant adds, his ethos at the heart of Beavertown is that, “it’s all about the beer but it’s more than just the beer.” Something we can all raise a pint glass to.

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