Shortcross helps smaller drink firms meet the virus challenge to cash flow

Interview 7-5-20 SM Farm

McCracken’s Real Ale, a craft brewery in Portadown, has won its first business in Great Britain from an e-commerce initiative with Shortcross Gin in Crossgar.

The small brewery is now supplying customers in Glasgow and is also following up approaches for its beers from other parts of Britain and the Republic of Ireland.

The first business outside Northern Ireland for the craft brewery, which was founded by Ryan McCracken in September 2018, follows a listing of the small company’s beers on the e-commerce shop of Rademon Estate Craft Distillery in Crossgar, known internationally for its multi-award-winning Shortcross Gin, the first gin distilled in Northern Ireland for more than a century and which is now exported worldwide.

Shortcross is currently celebrating the sixth anniversary of its foundation by Fiona and David Boyd Armstrong.

Ryan explains: “I contacted Shortcross in response to an offer from the distillery to include smaller drink producers here on their e-commerce shop during this very challenging time for us all.

“It was a very generous gesture. I was delighted when they subsequently put my five-strong range of beers online.

“This was a tremendous boost at a time when my sales to local hotels, restaurants and bars stopped because of the lockdown.

“I’ve since received firm orders from beer lovers in Glasgow and a number of other approaches from potential customers in Britain and the Republic.

“This is very encouraging because I had been planning a trip to Britain to pinpoint potential distributors.

“The Shortcross online shop also links to my website, which provides more detailed information about my business. I am relieved to see cash flowing again,” he adds.

Ryan, an IT manager, set up the brewery in a specially converted building at the home he shares with pregnant wife Nicola and son Evan. He began brewing as a hobby in 2014 when Nicola gave him a home brew kit as a Christmas present.

“I enjoyed beer and caught the home brewing bug,” he remembers. “I kept adding equipment and experimenting with different beers which family and friends enjoyed.

“In September 2018 I launched the brand and began marketing the beers in Portadown and then in other parts of Northern Ireland.

“I had built up a network of 60 outlets here in hotels, bars, restaurants and off licences.

“Unfortunately, licensing laws in Northern Ireland don’t allow craft brewers to sell online or to callers at the breweries.

“The listing on the Shortcross e-commerce shop was a real breakthrough for me,” he adds.

McCrackens Real Ale has created a broad range of bottled-conditioned ales and had begun supplying ale in cask and keg form.

The pale ales, Irish pale ale and chocolate and vanilla Irish stout are all hand crafted in the brewery in Portadown by Ryan and his four-strong team.

Long Meadow’s Catherine McKeever is also “deeply appreciative’ of support from the leading local craft distillery.

“It was very generous of Shortcross to open up their online shop as we do not have an online platform to sell,” she said.

“In doing so they have provided us with an opportunity to keep channels open between ourselves and our customers and enabled us to continue supplying our products, especially now at such a crucial time and when hotels, restaurants and bars are all closed.

“Customers can now place orders via both Shortcross and our own website with contactless delivery direct to their door.

“We are delighted to be working in collaboration with such a reputable family business,” she says.

Mark Troughton, marketing manager of Armagh Cider, adds: “We are delighted to be included in the Shortcross e-commerce site because it gives us an important springboard, especially into Great Britain and the Republic of Ireland.

“Such collaboration is exceptionally important, particularly at this worrying time.”

Fiona Boyd Armstrong, Shortcross managing director, says: “It’s immensely encouraging to see McCrackens winning customers in Britain.

“We were aware of the cash flow problems facing smaller drink companies here from the lockdown and wanted to do something to help them to survive.

“So we offered to include interested drink producers in our successful e-commerce shop.

“McCrackens, Long Meadow Cider and Armagh Cider, all based in Portadown, responded quickly and their products are showcased in the shop.”

The advent of coronavirus has forced most food and drink companies here to adapt the way they do business.

Virtually everything has changed and is likely to continue to be so in the months ahead. Our companies will have to grasp the opportunities and address different threats that lie ahead when the lockdown is eventually relaxed.

Food and drink companies, especially those dealing with hotels, restaurants and cafes and others dependent on outdoor food markets, saw their cash flow halted virtually overnight.

They’ve since had to quickly overhaul their sales strategy in particular and embrace technology, especially social media.

Smaller enterprises, which have built their income and become reliant on local markets for cash flow, had to move rapidly and decisively when this sales channel was shuttered to them.

The situation has driven many of them online and to use social media channels such as Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and YouTube.


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