Business Is Brewing
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.
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.