Craft Beer Industry Association members have voted overwhelmingly in favour of removing large brewers from the membership of their trade body and renaming it the Independent Brewers Association.
The Independent Brewers Association will come into effect on July 1, with membership prohibited for brewers that are more than 20 per cent owned by large brewers or other businesses that hold significant brewery holdings in Australia or overseas.
The new stipulation excludes the Asahi-owned Mountain Goat from membership, along with Little Creatures and Malt Shovel, which resigned from the CBIA earlier this year in anticipation.
Yenda brewer, Australian Beer Company, is also excluded as a result of its joint owner Coca-Cola Amatil’s interest in Paradise Beverages, which brews Fiji Bitter and other brands.
With no barrier to membership for brewers owned by large private interests outside the beer industry, debate will no doubt continue over what constitutes ‘independence’.
But the definition was never going to be perfect, Independent Brewers Association chair, Peta Fielding, told Brews News.
“We had to accept there was going to be this messy area in the middle, that no matter where we put the line, there would be some that would fall one side of it and some would fall on the other,” she said.
“Whether someone is owned or part-owned by private equity, or a very rich uncle who might have more money, that’s not really what it’s about.
“It’s about their reach into the beer market and their ability to influence the market,” said Fielding.
The cap excluding brewers with annual production exceeding 40 million litres has been retained, thereby excluding Coopers from becoming a member.
No revenue shortfall
The Independent Brewers Association recently agreed new partnership deals with Bintani, Kegstar and Cryermalt, executive officer Chris McNamara told Brews News.
He said this has helped soften the impact on revenue resulting from the departure of the big brewers, which were some of the largest fee paying members.
“That’s given us a certain level of financial certainty over the next three years. We’ve also seen significant growth in the income from the Craft Beer Awards and the Australian Craft Brewers Conference,” he said.
Fielding and McNamara said they are also confident of signing additional members and supplier partners as a result of the changes.
They have not however held any talks with ARCBA, the staunchly independent splinter group formed by several small brewers at around the same time as the CBIA.
“In the past we’ve tried to communicate with them and there hasn’t been much in reply. We sort of hope now that they’ll join if their major issue was the membership of those large brewers,” McNamara said.
More than 400 small brewers
Fielding said there are now more than 400 small, independent brewing businesses in Australia, up from just 200 when the association began five years ago.
“The industry directly employs more than 2100 people and generates an estimated $655 million in economic output,” she said.
“Our members face challenges in their businesses with issues such as taxation, market access and licensing that don’t align with those of larger global organisations,” Mrs Fielding said.
“These changes allow us to narrow our focus on addressing the needs of the businesses that need it most.”