Recently awarded Champion NSW Brewery at the Australian Independent Beer Awards, Philter is using its respected industry position to raise awareness about the issues facing the Australian brewing industry.
According to Philter, thousands of industry jobs are under threat by the homogenisation of the brewing industry at the hands of large international brewers. Independent breweries employ half of Australia’s brewing jobs, even though they only account for seven per cent of the nation’s annual sales. This has driven Philter to fight to stay Australian owned.
The brewery is also shining a spotlight on ‘tap contracts’ that limit the presence of craft beers in pubs and highlighting grocery chains that are mass producing beers designed to look like craft beers, essentially fooling consumers.
Stef Constantoulas, co-founder of Philter Brewing, explained why Australian ownership is so important to Philter.
“Before I co-founded Philter with Mick Neil, I worked for one of the beer giants that currently have a duopoly over the Australian marketplace. If we were in any other country, these tactics would be considered anti competition and the government would stamp it out with appropriate legislation. Together, Carlton United Breweries, which is owned by Japan’s Asahi, and Lion Nathan, owned by another Japanese powerhouse Kirin, account for approximately 80 to 85 per cent of sales in Australia. For decades these guys have been locking in long term exclusive contracts with pubs inhibiting independent beer from having a fair go. These beers are bland in comparison, and it’s their customers who are being shortchanged.
“Australia’s beer culture has evolved greatly over the past 10 years with the vibrancy of craft beers, and that has got the big boys worried. When CUB and Lion Nathan buy out the independents, not only will jobs vanish, but profits will also be siphoned off overseas, rather than being spent in Australia,” Constantoulas said.
Constantoulas believes that this market homogenisation will have a detrimental effect on the quality of Australian beer.
“Diversity is important because these beer giants influence what you will be drinking – beers produced conform to their shareholder wishes, not to the wishes of the punters who want diversity and flavour. There are also a number of imitation craft beers available which creates confusion for consumers and clouds the concept of independence in the industry,” he explained.
Philter has launched an equity crowdfunding appeal so the brewery can remain Australian owned and compete with the industry’s brewing giants.
“We just want a level playing field to continue doing what we love. Since we launched in 2017, Philter has been growing 43 per cent year on year, and have cracked $30 million in sales revenue . We are bolstering our war chest so we can double our capacity and take the duopoly head on. That’s why we want our loyal supporters to become part owners in Philter– we are proudly Australian owned, and we want to stay that way. The Birchal equity crowdfunding raise means we can stay Aussie owned rather than selling off to a foreign owned beer giant in order to grow, which would sadly affect the taste of our beer. And taste is what our customers value most,” Neil explained.
Philter aligns itself with independent breweries through the Certified Independent Seal initiative. To display the seal, the brewery needs to be an IBA member, which means it has less than 20 per cent foreign ownership, and produces fewer than 40 million litres of beer each year.