Feral Brewing founder Brendan Varis has told TheShout that he is “200 per cent confident” that the quality of the brewer’s beers will not be compromised as a result of the decision to sell to Coca-Cola Amatil (CCA).
Feral announced yesterday that it was commencing a 100 per cent sale to CCA, and Varis said that after he spoke to the company about how Feral would operate within the CCA business, he realised the company was the right partner for the Western Australia brewer.
“People might have thought that we would be fiercely independent for forever and a day but the reality is that having a single shareholder in a business that is growing like ours is always going to be difficult from a capital perspective,” Varis told TheShout.
“When the conservation started we were really looking to get some of the debt out of the company after some really major cap-ex last year and some of the longer term debt. We were looking for a shareholder to help us with that and then as the conversations started, one thing led to another and it gradually became clear that it was going to be as good or better if we considered an entire sale and that is where we have ended up.”
In terms of why the decision was made to sell to CCA, Varis added: “I reckon that CCA are in the right place for us as our partner.
“Their beer business is relatively young still, and with that they have got to have a mindset to build new brands. And we are certainly not a brand that you could just implant into anyone’s business and assume that it is going to continue to grow and prosper, it’s going to need brand building work and their mindset was very much there. And then I was just really comfortable talking to Shane (Richardson) and Judd (Michel) about that and that they understood that and they understood that buying us was a very different prospect to buying other craft breweries who might make more introductory-type craft beers and have a reputation around that.
“Shane and Judd understood that and understood that the challenges of buying Feral would be very different to the challenges of buying any of the other craft breweries that they could have bought.
“Everyone knows that any efforts to try and change the product mix or the integrity of any of the products would lose all the people that support us today. I don’t think we have consumers drinking our beers because we might be seen as the cool kids, it’s very much about the liquid. Everyone knows that any efforts to make a less challenging range, or to mess around with the existing products would almost certainly be met with failure.”
The deal will see Feral operate as its own business unit within CCA, with CCA bringing support of its far larger sales team to be able to assist the dedicated Feral sales team that currently exists and that will stay in place.
Varis does admit that there be some backlash from some elements of the craft community, but told TheShout that he hopes people will understand the reasons behind the sale and that the liquid will not change.
“There will undoubtedly be some who will never buy another Feral beer again because we are not independent and there is not much that we can do about that,” he said.
“Ultimately the benefits for our staff and ultimately our beer will be better because of this and you’ve got to question whether people, when they first picked up a Hop Hog, knew that it was independent. I don’t think that many people started drinking our beer because of being independent, so it would be a shame if they stopped drinking it for that reason. And I implore people, if independence is important to them then fine, but for people who have looked at and listened to why we have sold, I just implore those people to not prejudge it, let the liquid do the speaking and if the liquid isn’t as good or better going forward then the choice is there for them. But I am 200 per cent confident there will be absolutely no change to the liquid as a result of this sale.”
Varis also said that he is confident that Feral will be able to remain a part of the Independent Brewers Association as CCA is under the 40m litres of beer produced globally every year.
Chris McNamara, the Executive Director of the Independent Brewers Association said: “The Independent Brewers Association would like to congratulate Feral Brewing Co, in particular Brendan & Gabi, on the sale of the business to Coca-Cola Amatil.
“We are currently investigating what the sale means for Feral’s eligibility to remain a member of the Independent Brewers Association and will make further comment once these investigations are complete.”