Shaken by the emergence of independent farms, New Zealand’s largest hop supplier is rebranding and reasserting its market dominance.
The co-operative, known as NZ Hops Ltd since 1993, will be known simply as NZ Hops. It revealed a new logo and strategic direction to shareholders today. The logo is a stylised shield representing a hop cone.
The new tag line is ‘Aiming to be the most revered supplier of hops in the world’.
Given New Zealand has just a 1 per cent share of the global hop market it’s a bold ambition, but new chief executive Craig Orr is confident his organisation can produce and market a succession of the pungently tropical aroma hops the world wants.
NZ Hops will soon make a big noise about its latest release – known as Hort 4337 in its development stages.
“We have great hopes for it,” Orr said.
“We think it’s a quite significant threat in terms of the profile you see in American hops like Citra and Mosaic – it’s an absolute candidate to take over from those guys especially in its own backyard.”
With the 20-year plant variety rights (PVR) on the popular Nelson Sauvin expiring later this year, having a new, exclusive hop variety come on tap is gold for NZ Hops.
While independent farms in Nelson are licensed to grow Nelson Sauvin, that won’t be the case with the Hort 4337. It will only be grown on farms in the NZ Hops co-operative.
For many years NZ Hops Ltd had a monopoly on the Kiwi hop market but in the past three years independent farms such as Freestyle and Hop Revolution have changed the landscape, dealing directly with big-name breweries and grabbing the spotlight.
Freestyle, for instance, has direct relationships with US powerhouse breweries such as Hill Farmstead and Sierra Nevada as well as Wellington’s Garage Project.
“They shook things up,” Orr said of the independents. “It was a rude and crude awakening.”
Orr’s mission is to re-establish NZ Hops as the most recognised supplier of New Zealand hops.
“Part of our strategy is to restore and take back the leadership and start optimising our own story. We need to be a bit more market-facing, a little more open, a little more transparent with what we’ve got which hasn’t always been the case,” Orr said.
One of the most obvious signs of change is that NZ Hops will start dealing directly with breweries. Out of necessity they will continue to use distributors but they also want that direct relationship with key breweries in New Zealand, Australia and the US.
“We want to take charge of our own brand and control our own destiny a bit more. We’ve signalled to all our major distributor customers that times are a changing,” Orr said.
“We will still use distributors; at the scale we are at and at this end of the world, we’ll never be in the position to be able to replicate the levels of distribution they can provide in core markets.
“All we’ve said is … should we want to deal directly with a brewer for the purposes of building our own brand – be it our masterbrand or an individual hop brand – then we will.”
Orr said it is an internal KPI for NZ Hops to get on-pack and on-tap recognition of their trademarked hops.
“Going through a distributor they’re never going to manage that … in a supply situation in front of a brewer they’ll by shopping a portfolio and we’ll be second best.”
To that end NZ Hops has a pipeline of “three or four” new, trademarked aroma hops coming on to the market in coming years. That will mean cutting back on hop varieties that “don’t perform” in terms of sales.
“The more strategic challenge is optimizing our cultivars. We grow 18 now which is probably too many these days. The aroma market is where the New Zealand industry is renowned, so that means cleaning up the lesser performing varieties in terms of demand.”