Three cheers: Craft beer delivery, mini keg subscription and pub-in-a-box drive sales for Lion Brewery amid pandemic

By Guan Yu Lim contact

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags: Beer, Craft beer, Alcohol, Singapore, COVID-19

Singapore-based Lion Brewery Co has tapped its e-commerce business and new concepts including subscription services to drive craft beer sales amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

The brewery was established in Singapore in 2018, producing craft beers sold on its online store, supermarket chains, as well as on-trade channels.

During the COVID-19 pandemic last year which hit on-trade channels hardest, Lion Brewery saw its keg sales plummeted, and so turned focus onto the B2C channels, particularly e-commerce.

Pre-pandemic, e-commerce only accounted for about 3% of sales, according to Lion Brewery’s general manager and co-founder, Will Julius.

However, during the pandemic, e-commerce, specifically its home delivery craft beer service, contributed 98% of sales.

As Singapore started to ease restrictions around June and more on-trade channels opened, the brewery was able to sell its kegs and sales have managed to grow 400% compared to pre-pandemic times.

E-commerce now accounts for about 10 to 20% of monthly sales.

Julius told FoodNavigator-Asia​ having an online store before the pandemic proved advantageous during the lockdown period: “We were already doing home deliveries, and had a following of customers. We had a system in place, whereas I think a lot of other players were maybe playing catch up a little bit, since they didn't have a home delivery service​.”

New concepts

Besides the craft beer delivery service, Lion Brewery also introduced various concepts to engage consumers, as well as its team.

We're all sitting at home not able to go anywhere, so we were really trying to think outside the box and coming up with concepts that were creative and fun to keep our customers and us engaged​.”

One concept was a monthly subscription service for mini kegs, with a different beer every month. It is targeted for households in 3L kegs instead of the 20 to 30L for its on-trade partners.

It also introduced a new concept called pub in a box, where it worked with several spirits and liquor partners as well as snack brands, creating a box of drinks and snacks for people to enjoy at home, “it’s like bringing the pub to them​.”

Lion Brewery also worked with other home-grown breweries in Singapore, releasing an assortment pack of local beers (6 or 12 packs) in May 2020.

We all put in a different bottle and it was a nice way of bringing the breweries and the craft beer community together in Singapore​.”

The brewery carries a core range comprising ale, lager and IPA, as well as a seasonal range. The latter is a new brew created every month, and the limited time and smaller run are intended to keep its craft beer fans engaged.

Our ethos for our core range has always been to make beers that are easy to drink, sessionable (lower alcohol content), flavourful and approachable. We want to be able to bring more people into craft beer,” ​Julius said.

While its core products range between 4.5 to 4.8% ABV, the seasonal range consist of more flavours (e.g. nutmeg, tropic) and higher ABV of up to 7.5%.

They tend to be fun ways for our brewery team to experiment and try different things​.”

The beers are brewed in Singapore by the firm’s master brewer Neo Say Wee. It currently works with partners for gypsy brewing (contract).

Regional expansion

Lion Brewery is also present in Cambodia since 2019, and the UK from last year.

According to Julius, the brewery was looking at a regional expansion this year. Conversations with distributors are currently ongoing in the Philippines, Thailand, Vietnam, Indonesia.

These markets would focus on B2B which includes on-trade as well as retailers.

Sustainability efforts

Lion Brewery is also working on creating a sustainable business. It recently announced a partnership with Green Steps Group to plant a tree for every beer keg sold.

The trees will be planted in the Borneo forests and will be geo-tagged and monitored by Green Steps Group's proprietary technology to measure CO2​ output of each tree.

For every 100 trees planted, Lion Brewery Co will offset 2,200 kg of CO2​ per annum.

The goal is to plant at least 2,000 trees by the end of 2021. So far, the brewery has planted 350 trees.

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