10 Saints Marching
It is locally produced but enjoys premium sales internationally.
The handcrafted beer 10 Saints is quickly expanding its reach, having been able to penetrate four new markets this year.
Owner of 10 Saints Brewery Company Limited Glyn Partridge said the company had already shipped to Denmark and Italy last month, and by early March would be sending its first shipment to Vietnam and Australia.
This brings to 20, the number of markets to which the four-year-old company currently exports its brew. Among them are six Caribbean countries.
In addition, the UK-born businessman told Barbados TODAY the company could soon be expanding its production with some of its drinks being produced in other Caribbean islands as well as China.
Speaking with Barbados TODAYat the Hilton resort recently, the investor said the new markets came as a result of a Caribbean Export sponsored mission to Anuga last October.
“This is a breakthrough for us really. There are many pending markets out there that we have ongoing negotiations with and expecting to open at least another five or six markets this year, maybe more. But these are all major markets with either emerging or established craft beers categories so it is very exciting for us,” said Partridge, adding that the new markets were “generally quite difficult markets for Caribbean beers in the past” to get into.
The Barbados-based company employs seven full-time staff locally and two overseas. And it exports between 60 and 70 per cent of its production.
The light refreshing lager beer, after being produced as a regular ale, is then aged in wooden barrels for about three months.
The beverage company was launched in the midst of an economic downturn when “consumers are looking for volume”, according to Partridge. The situation, he said, was not ideal but the craft beer continued to be the “leading premium Caribbean beer”.
“But I would say that we have created a genuine consumer franchise. We have a following. It is niche, but we are mainly the only commercial craft beer producer in CARICOM,” said Partridge.
Stressing his intention to penetrate even more markets, Partridge said he was active in “generating leads and dialogues with companies around the world”, stating that some markets were harder to get into than others.
“There are regulatory requirements to get through in the alcohol industry. There is unique labelling required for most markets and then the usual negotiations around distribution agreements. So these things take time,” he said.
“Anuga seems to have crystallized that for us last year, and resulting pretty quickly in these major markets coming on board and not just ordering a few cases, shipping full container load with a forecast throughout the year with market activities to support,” he added.
Initial orders are full 20-foot containers holding 21,600 bottles each.
“So it is exciting in terms of the potential that offers to the business. But [it is also] a great affirmation of what we are doing and it gives us a sort of a confidence and a pride in the product we are producing,” said Partridge.
He said he was especially proud of the achievement given the fact that he was competing with thousands of other breweries from around the world to get into some markets.
“So I am not exaggerating when I say buyers have these kinds of choice and they choose 10 Saints from Barbados. That makes us feel excited and proud and optimistic about the future,” he said.
Opting not to give details, Partridge hinted at some new products to be released later this year.
“Part of our core skill set is brand development. On that score you will see some things this year, both under the 10 Saints umbrella and in addition to it. So in a sense our core skill is that we are not necessarily manufacturers, we are more about brand development and marketing,” he said.
In relation to expansion plans, Partridge told Barbados TODAY he was currently in discussions for “a joint venture of sorts where there is land equity partnership”.
This, he said, “would lead to production in China”.
“So I think overseas production is a part of that [expansion] and also looking for additional production in the Caribbean. Today’s world is all about the distribution and marketing really. Production can always be added; production can always be built from the ground up. But the challenge is always distribution and marketing,” he said.
And as Barbados celebrates 50 years of political independence Partridge’s wish for the country is that “we could identify 50 start-ups”.
“It is about Barbados opening its doors to the world and looking at that horizons rather than being too domestically focused and progressing in that sense,” he said.
“One meets so many young people here with the imagination and energy, whether it be the guy [renting] chairs on the beach or in the professional world and I just think that opening doors for those guys to apply their energy in the business world would be a great thing. And that’s about less red tape, it is about making CARICOM work better and just creating role models and expectations . . . and some of it is about creating a
business-friendly environment. That would be a great thing for the 50th,” he said.
Asked to share his thoughts on the recent take over of Banks Holdings Limited (BHL) by Latin American beverage giant Ambev, Partridge said he predicted the company would add value to the local Banks brand “not only in the local market but to Banks as an international player”.
And stating that his company received support from Banks Brewery in the past, Partridge said he was hoping that support would continue.
Partridge said while 10 Saints had no intention of acquiring any other company at this time, Partridge said he got “numerous entrepreneur, investors [and] companies wanting to invest in the business. That happens kind of all the time”.
But as the company continues to expand its footprint globally, the entrepreneur has one concern. A lot of Barbadians are yet to familiarize themselves with 10 Saints and realize that it is a locally produced beer that is loved by tourists.
“The local trade gave us all the support from day one. We had distribution in hotels, bars, restaurants, [and] supermarkets where we wanted to have distribution, literally within the first month or so of starting . . . I think they like the idea of a premium Bajan beer, they like the idea of craft beer and they like the idea of supporting start-up businesses here in Barbados,” he said.
“When it comes to consumers our challenge is just about letting more consumers know about the brand and let them taste the brand and appreciate it. Once that happens we tend then to build on that consumer franchise. But there are still lots of consumers of beer that don’t know about us or at least haven’t tried the product. That is where the marketing muscle kind of comes into play that the bigger companies enjoy,” he added.
Partridge has been involved in the consumer goods and drinks market “most” of his life, having worked with some of the big drink companies around the world.
He started his own drinks company in Hong Kong, and later introduced a distribution company in that country. Later he created several brands throughout the world, including India.
Recently Partridge elevated one of his Barbadian employees to shareholder of 10 Saints, within 18 months of her being with the company.
You could say Liesl Best, was thrown in headfirst. And it was either swim or sink for her when she started her new career.
In less than two years the 23-year-old has moved from being just someone helping out with research to serving as sales and marketing officer, now to being equity shareholder and director of new business development.
Describing her journey with the company so far as an interesting one, Best said prior to starting with the company she was working as a cashier at a supermarket while pursuing Computer Science studies at the University of the West Indies, Cave Hill Campus.
“Through some entrepreneurial activities I was trying to do, in terms of the arts and poetry, I met Mr Partridge and basically he needed someone at the time to do some market research for him for the Caribbean and the preferential access markets. And because of my background in computer science I was perfect for the task. So it started out very small just helping to build the information he required at the time. And since then it just progressed naturally.”
However, that meant “a lot of long hours”. And while she feels as though she has done “five years of work in 18 months”, Best says she is still “very excited” about her new role.
“The scope of this job is immense and because it is a small company you get to dip your hands in a little bit of everything,” said Best.
“For me that means I get to learn a lot that most people would not have done in such a short space of time,” added the former Black Rock, St Michael, residentswho recently relocated to St Philip.
Partridge said Best’s quick elevation to having a stake in the business was a matter of identifying and rewarding talent. An endeavor he wanted other companies to embrace.
“It is about retaining that talent and rewarding that talent. From a wider perspective I suppose at a time of high unemployment in the region it is perhaps a model other business could look at to identify that talent and give them a stake in the business. I am a great believer in that,” he said.
Best’s advice to her peers is to work hard and find something they “see opportunity and progression in and put your all into it”.
“No one sees someone who is smart, intelligent and trying to achieve a goal and say ‘no, I don’t want that person’. People notice that and recognize that. If you do that you will be fine,” she added.
She said while she was happy that the beer was available in several markets, she wanted more market penetration and greater recognition in the existing ones.