From babies to beers for new Tuatara boss

New Tuatara boss settles in to 'dream job'

HAMISH MCNICOL
Last updated 05:00 04/12/2013
tuatara
Kent Blechynden
DRINK UP: New Tuatara Brewery Chief Executive Richard Shirtcliffe.

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Wellingtonian Richard Shirtcliffe has swapped the "parallel universe" of a baby-products company for the "red-blooded Kiwi male's dream job" as head of craft-beer brewer Tuatara.

Shirtcliffe, a nephew of former Telecom chairman Peter Shirtcliffe, has been appointed chief executive of the Paraparaumu brewer, beginning fulltime in January.

His appointment comes about six months after Wellington investment company Rangatira bought 35 per cent of Tuatara, for what is thought to be a multimillion-dollar sum.

Shirtcliffe was brand director of phil&teds, a baby products company stocked in 50 countries. Its products include the Mountain Buggy brand of strollers.

But he has swapped highchairs for bar stools to help Tuatara expand into what he sees as a massive opportunity for New Zealand in craft-beer brewing.

"It was a great business, but it was a bit of a parallel universe, right?

"I mean who knows anything about parenting before you're a parent, so it was a big and steep learning curve."

Shirtcliffe said as a fan of beer, operating a brewing company represented less of an unknown.

His role would predominantly focus on building the Tuatara brand both in New Zealand and offshore.

"If you think back to the late 80s and early 90s the wine industry was defined by two massive goliaths and a bunch of new players starting to spring through.

"I see massive parallels with the craft-brewing industry for beer right now."

Rangatira's investment has allowed Tuatara to increase capacity from about 1.5 million litres a year to 4m litres. The increase was nearly completed, short of the arrival of a few more tanks.

Director and co-founder Sean Murrie said hiring a professional chief executive was the logical step in trying to expand the business.

The 13-year-old company had reached a tipping point, whereby Shirtcliffe would be charged with selling as much beer as he liked, Murrie said. It already exported beer to Australia, Singapore, China, the United States and Europe.

"You can go talk up a storm in Australia but if you can't supply there's no point. He can go four times current volume without banging his head too hard."

Shirtcliffe said expanding Tuatara was not about becoming the next Lion or DB, as it was still just a "little family business".

It had grown well on the "back of perspiration" but he believed he had designs which would take it to being a "bigger family business".

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"For a red-blooded Kiwi male, tell me a more dream job."

Shirtcliffe grew up and lives in Wellington, having spent 10 years on an extended OE and a year kite-surfing in the Caribbean.

- © Fairfax NZ News

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