University of Nottingham and Clements Marketing: taking British beer to the Chinese market

University of Nottingham and Clements Marketing: taking British beer to the Chinese market

Microbrewers in the Midlands are finding export success with the help of science and market research.

This case study orginally appeared on page 58 of the State of the Relationship Report 2014. The report outlines the state of university-business collaboration in the UK, featuring expert views and over forty case studies. Read the full report.

In 2004, China overtook the USA to become the world’s largest beer market. While the competition in the UK is growing fierce amongst the main brewers, niche markets present a golden opportunity for microbrewers to thrive.

UK beer duty regulations mean that brewers making under a certain volume of beer are entitled to a lower tax rate. As a result, the number of craft brewers in the UK has increased by seven percent per annum. A significant proportion of these breweries are based in the Midlands.

The University of Nottingham has been supporting 20 such microbrewers across the East Midlands to find success through a project which helps them develop beers to be sold in China. A team from its brewing science department partnered with the regional Food and Drink iNet (Innovation Network) to help microbrewers develop stable, bottled conditioned beers suitable for export. This included helping them increase their quality control processes and enjoy greater consistency of product by measuring qualities such as alcohol by volume, CO2, microbial stability and shelf life.

After this developmental phase, the team had to find a way of exporting the beers to China in order to maximise the University’s extensive experience in the country, where it has a campus in Ningbo. Clements Marketing, a local East Midlands company, was contracted by iNet to work with the microbrewers on exports, guided by market intelligence provided by the University’s Asia Business Centre (ABC) and the UKTI. Clements Marketing worked with businesses to develop market entry strategies and to link themselves with beer importers in China.

The Asia Business Centre further organised a beer tasting focus group on the Jubilee Campus, where Chinese students commented on the beers and the proposed pricing. ABC also linked Clements Marketing with the University’s Ningbo Campus once a week, enabling students to provide ongoing feedback about the beers via video conferencing.

Speaking about the collaboration Alan Clements, Managing Director of Clements Marketing, says: “We are reaping the benefits of the pool of expertise located in Nottingham as well as at the University’s Ningbo campus in China. In addition, we have also employed nine students who have helped us in a variety of areas ranging from market research to translation.”

As a result of the successful collaboration between the university, Food and Drink iNet, UKTI and Clements Marketing, a number of beers from the microbrewers are already being exported to merchants in Shanghai, Ningbo and in Chengdu, Sichuan province.

Alex Buchanan, Marketing Manager at the Thornbridge Brewery in Derbyshire, says the University and Clements Marketing provided his company with “excellent support” and “an understanding of the Chinese market.”

“This is a very good example of how we can help small and medium sized businesses,” say Mike Carr, Director of Business Engagement at the University of Nottingham. “Our technical expertise, unrivalled links and knowledge of China and South East Asia have helped to give Midlands microbrewers a significant competitive advantage.”

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