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Packaging Innovations & Empack 2024 interview: Fraser Doherty of Beer52


On the path to becoming the youngest-ever supplier to a major supermarket, entrepreneur Fraser Doherty will share his experience of shaping the Beer52 business at Birmingham Packaging Week.

Aiming to shake up the craft beer market, Beer52 combines community culture and the joy of discovery with a trusted subscription model. A conversation with Fraser Doherty, co-founder of Beer52 and sister business Wine52, sheds light on the club’s dynamic approach to offering a monthly journey of taste exploration to its members.

Building a community through discovery

The core mission of Beer52 revolves around building a community of passionate craft beer aficionados that supports and discovers the world’s best craft producers. Fraser emphasises the unique opportunity the club provides to members by unlocking a fascinating and exciting journey of taste discovery around the globe, while also supporting the brewers.

“We get to work with a lot of incredibly passionate brewers and winemakers, who pour their labour and love into the products they create. It’s a huge honour to get to deliver their products to our customers and be able to support them in growing their businesses.”

The club’s community-driven culture relies heavily on customer feedback, ratings, and reviews, allowing for continuous evolution and a flourishing ecosystem of beer lovers and brewing innovators. The simplicity lies in a monthly rolling membership, offering members flexibility to pause, skip a box, or cancel anytime, putting them firmly in the driver’s seat.

A team of passionate guides

With a team of over 120 individuals based in their Edinburgh headquarters, Beer52 is a hub of passionate individuals working across various facets of the business, including the company’s in-house magazines, Ferment and Glug.

“One of the things we are proudest of is our record of promoting from within. It’s a point of pride for me to see many of our colleagues join in entry level roles, and develop their careers in exciting directions within supply, content production, finance and more.”

Crafting a unique experience

At the heart of Beer52’s offer is the concept of discovery. Fraser’s core mission is clear – to blend the best elements of community culture with a raft of exciting craft products from around the globe, helping its members find new favourites and using data and listening to constantly evolve.

“Because our expert buyers do the leg work of tasting thousands of different beers and wines every year (tough job, I know!), customers can be sure that every beer or wine they get from us will not only be delicious, but will help them discover new styles of beer, grape varieties they wouldn’t otherwise find in the supermarket, and from regions of the world that are harder to find in the supermarket.”

Thriving during challenges

The pandemic presented challenges, but the pioneering Beer52 model rose to the occasion. With stores closed and shelves laying empty, the company experienced significant growth as delivering beer to people’s homes became a crucial service to offer.

“I was proud of how our team rose to the challenge. During the global pandemic, our business grew quite dramatically. We were able to support craft breweries with some of their biggest orders ever during a time when conventional sales through pubs and bars had dried up.”

With the service hitting all the right notes with its audience, Beer52 earned recognition as one of the 100 fastest-growing companies in the UK. This period also saw the launch of Wine52, Beer52’s venture into disrupting the UK wine club market.

Mission to support craft producers

Fraser is keen to highlight how the raison d’etre of Beer52 is not just about connecting craft beer lovers with product to fall in love with, it’s also about supporting small, talented breweries and winemakers in growing their businesses.

Therein lies the core of the Beer52 culture – its mission extends beyond delivering quality products. It’s about fostering a sense of community and connection among craft enthusiasts, encouraging recommendations, opinions and discussion.

Notably, Beer52 uses eye-catching designs on its corrugated box packaging, showcasing the imagination and skills of independent artists and creative talent. The packaging is a fantastic example of a brand leaning into the ‘packaging as an experience’ mindset.

Continuous evolution and customer focus

Logistical strength is the make-or-break factor for many e-commerce focused businesses, and Beer52 is no different. To ensure a great customer experience and reduce the cost impact of losses, the organisation focuses on reducing damaged and delayed parcels.

“As well as creating an exciting new product every month, it’s vital that we’re able to reduce the number of delayed or damaged parcels and respond to customer enquiries in a timely fashion. To do that, we have an extremely close relationship with our delivery partners, 3PL (third-party logistics) and packaging suppliers, to constantly improve our service levels. This also makes us better and better at coping with peaks in demand at key periods, such as Christmas.”

The vision, of course, is a seamless customer experience.

The power of storytelling

Beer52 is a service proudly built on storytelling, from the independent brewers selected for that month’s distribution, to the vibrant and impactful packaging it arrives in. Fraser believes that it’s essential Beer52 can unveil the stories behind small producers and the countries they visit each month. To supplement this, and to help subscribers dig into the powerful and moving stories behind each drink, the in-house magazines, Ferment and Glug, not only share the narratives of breweries and wineries but also tales from the team’s adventures in different countries.

Beer and wine serve as fantastic entry points to explore culture, history, food, and drink, making the club experience rich and multifaceted. Beer52 centres around its club focus, encouraging members to get involved by rating and reviewing the beverages they receive. Live-streamed online tastings, community meet-ups and sponsorships of beer festivals further connect Beer52 with its members beyond the digital space.

As will be explored during Fraser’s talk at Birmingham Packaging Innovations & Empack, the success of Beer52 is evident in its ability to keep every month exciting for its members. With a constantly changing theme, new beers, and wines keeping the value proposition for subscribers feeling fresh, the possibilities are endless. The club’s longevity, with customers having been members for the full ten years of its existence, attests to the team’s commitment to keeping the engaging and exciting.

The craft community is well served by Beer52 and offers core insights into the value of a community-driven brand. As it continues to evolve and offer an exciting service to subscribers, the world of craft beer and wine is sure to remain vibrant and full of surprises.

Cheers to the next decade of exploration and enjoyment with Beer52!

Ready to dive into key packaging and branding topics with first-hand accounts, insights and discussions? Register your interest in Packaging Innovations & Empack 2024 by clicking here.

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