Busi­ness Is Brew­ing

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Mix­ing Things Up

How do you make a name for your­self in an in­dus­try where a gi­ant has dom­i­nated the mar­ket for gen­er­a­tions? In the beer in­dus­try, in par­tic­u­lar, there is one name that many of us grew up with, pop­u­lar not only among lo­cals but also for­eign con­sumers. And be­cause of its fame and ubiq­uity, it was hard to imag­ine there would ever be other play­ers in the in­dus­try. Then came craft beer. Pro­duced by small, in­de­pen­dent brew­ers, this ar­ti­sanal al­ter­na­tive is chang­ing the way Filipinos en­joy this drink. The lo­cal craft beer scene is not yet as big as it is in other coun­tries, but it is grow­ing, with a hand­ful of brands mak­ing waves in es­tab­lish­ments around the coun­try. Among them is Pe­dro Brewcrafters, the brain­child of hus­band-and-wife tan­dem Jaime and Na­dine Fanlo, and their friend,

Jill Borja. Here, the cou­ple talks about the in­spi­ra­tion be­hind the brand, and the steps they took to break through the in­dus­try.

IT WAS A TRIP TO A CRAFT BEER FES­TI­VAL IN HONG KONG IN 2014 that in­spired Jaime, Na­dine, and Jill to put up their own brew­ery. Apart from dis­cov­er­ing new craft beer brands, the group of friends left the fes­ti­val with an as­ton­ish­ing dis­cov­ery.

“We no­ticed there was no Philip­pine rep­re­sen­ta­tion there,” re­calls Jaime. “There were craft beers from Thai­land, Aus­tralia, Sin­ga­pore, and other places, but none from the Philip­pines. When we looked into it, there were craft beer com­pa­nies here that were just start­ing up; there was a lot of room pa for growth. So I said, ‘Why don’t we make a play for it?’”

It was the perfect con­cept for all three of them: Both Na­dine and Jill al­ready had ex­pe­ri­ence work­ing in the food and bev­er­age in­dus­try—na­dine was han­dling mar­ket­ing for a restau­rant in Taguig at the time, while Jill had a suc­cess­ful food chain (Manang’s Chicken) un­der her belt. Jaime, mean­while, was a prac­tic­ing lawyer, but like Na­dine and Jill, was a craft beer en­thu­si­ast.

So the group jumped at the op­por­tu­nity. They de­vel­oped a busi­ness plan, found in­vestors among fam­ily mem­bers, and got to work. Equip­ment was or­dered and recipes were tested, brewed out of a smaller brew­ing sys­tem in Jill’s garage. “We were al­ready look­ing at com­mer­cial vi­a­bil­ity of a recipe, what will work for the mar­ket,” says Jaime.

ES­TAB­LISH­ING THE BRAND

The Pe­dro brew­ery of­fi­cially opened in San Pe­dro, La­guna and be­gan op­er­a­tions in July 2015. The brand name was in­spired by the city that be­came its home base.

The team en­vi­sioned Pe­dro to be “ap­proach­able and friendly to the mar­ket.” These qual­i­ties were vi­su­al­ized as the shaggy-haired, sun­glass-wear­ing man against funky back­grounds printed on the bot­tle la­bels. Prod­uct-wise, they wanted their beer to be “easy to drink.” And so Pe­dro was first in­tro­duced to the mar­ket with three brews in­spired by the tra­di­tional styles of im­ported beers that the team found to be a hit among Filipinos.

“We fig­ured we’d re­lease some­thing that wasn’t too far from what they know, but dif­fer­ent enough to show what craft beer could be, or would be the craft ver­sion of what they like,” says Na­dine.

To get the prod­ucts into es­tab­lish­ments, each team mem­ber per­son­ally ap­proached po­ten­tial part­ners to pitch Pe­dro and set up tast­ings. Their strate­gies seemed to work as the busi­ness started gain­ing at­ten­tion, just af­ter a year of oper­a­tion, with pub­lic­ity and more es­tab­lish­ments pick­ing up their brand. Says Na­dine, “In the be­gin­ning, of course we had to ex­plain what craft beer is in the first place. We still do; we’re con­stantly reach­ing out to peo­ple who have never heard of it still, but it’s be­com­ing less now.”

This mo­men­tum prompted Jaime to leave his prac­tice in July 2016, to join Na­dine, who had left her job in April 2015, to fo­cus on the busi­ness full time. Jill, mean­while, con­tin­ues to co-man­age the brand on a di­rec­tor­ship ba­sis.

FRIENDLY COM­PE­TI­TION

There are other new brands out there, but for the Fan­los, hav­ing com­peti­tors is not a prob­lem, be­cause it’s the sheer va­ri­ety that makes craft beer so ap­peal­ing to con­sumers in the first place. The small-scale pro­duc­tion al­lows craft brew­ers to be more se­lec­tive when it comes to their in­gre­di­ents and pay closer at­ten­tion to each mix, there­fore cre­at­ing a brew with more fla­vor and per­son­al­ity—tech­niques that tend to take a back­seat in mass pro­duc­tion.

“We no­ticed that we sell bet­ter in places where there’s a va­ri­ety, be­cause the mar­ket al­ways looks for va­ri­ety,” says Jaime. “When you get a client and you say, ‘Try this,’ and sud­denly they taste grape­fruit, ba­nana, choco­late, or cof­fee in their beer, then they re­al­ize, ‘Wow, there’s some­thing more to this!’ And you’re giv­ing them op­tions for how to en­joy their meals. It’s not any­more some­thing you look at as, ‘Okay, time to get drunk!’ Now, it’s ‘I’m go­ing to have a steak, what will go well with this?’ Or, ‘We’re hav­ing a bar­be­cue, maybe some­thing cit­rusy will work.’ These are the op­tions that we present to con­sumers.’”

Though they employ a few peo­ple, Jaime and Na­dine Fanlo are hands-on busi­ness own­ers.

The team de­signed the pack­ag­ing to re­flect their brand per­son­al­ity: ca­sual, but high qual­ity.

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