Tuatara brews expansion plan

JASON KRUPP
Last updated 05:00 06/09/2012

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The owners of Kapiti Coast's Tuatara Brewery want to sell a quarter of the craft beer maker to private investors to help boost marketing and international expansion plans.

Talk among beer aficionados was that the Paraparaumu-based firm was being courted by Japanese brewer Asahi Brewing's local subsidiary, Independent Liquor, which is moving to capture a corner of the thriving craft beer market, with a full takeover agreement all but signed.

But co-owners Carl Vasta and Sean Murrie say no such deal is in the works.

However, Tuatara has started preliminary discussions with a select group of private equity firms to sell a 25 per cent stake in the firm.

“We are looking for a bit of investment, not a takeover,” Vasta said. The pair would not disclose their asking price, but said the value they placed on the brand was about three times higher than initial valuations by potential investors.

The proceeds from the partial sale would be put towards bolstering sales and marketing.

Tuatara brews about a million litres of beer a year, which translates into retail sales of $18 million calculated at $9 a pint. Its brewery has the capacity to produce three times that amount.

“The supermarkets have been fantastic, and a lot of the independent liquor stores like Liquor King, Liquor Land and The Mill are all trying to have a craft-beer strategy,” Murrie said.

“But while they're doing a good job (of promoting craft beer) they expect a lot more support from us. Every supermarket expects a visit from a rep every week or at least once a fortnight.”

Craft beer accounts for about 5 per cent of total beer sales in New Zealand. Vasta said it had the potential to grow to 15 per cent - on a par with the United States.

Tuatara said exports played an important part in its strategy and it was looking to lift sales in Australia, the US and Europe.

The other option is to sign a distribution deal with Independent Liquor. The Asahi-owned company recently launched its own Boundary Road and Spike craft beers, and has been trying to sign up micro-breweries.

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- BusinessDay.co.nz

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