Scotland’s leading exporter of craft beer and spirits is celebrating after signing several deals with Japanese importers while dramatically growing the number of producers with whom it collaborates.
Chris Miller (pictured), director of JW Filshill International, said the number of distillers it was working with had doubled as it continued to generate new business overseas, particularly in the Far East.
He said its recent deals to export to Japan had included craft distillers such as Pickering’s Gin, Orkney Distillers, Glasgow Distillery, Strathearn and McQueen’s, as well as craft brewers Williams Brothers, West Beer and its own Clan Brewing Co.
JW Filshill International, which trades as the Craft Beer Clan, is now working with more than 40 craft brewers and 40 craft distillers from across Scotland.
Chris said the recent deals to export Scottish craft spirits and beers to Japan was a major coup, and followed a smaller deal with Japanese distributors last year, which saw Scottish craft products on sale on Amazon.jp.
He added that JW Filshill International had appointed four import partners and had now successfully enabled export of 20 craft distillers to Japan, with a total of 35 new products now on sale, generating a turnover just shy of £100,000.
He said: “That’s £100,000 of business that didn’t exist last year. And now that we have our foot in the door we’re confident this figure will grow considerably through our import network in market. We have also appointed an agent, a former Diageo executive, for this region.”
JW Filshill International had achieved revenues of more than £2m in the past four years, with its ongoing success reflected in a series of awards and nominations for awards, including the HSBC Export Awards and Scotland Food and Drink Awards. JW Filshill International said it had exported more than one million bottles of beer last year.
As well as the growth in craft spirits, Chris said craft beer was still going from strength to strength, adding: “We’re exporting craft beer regularly to the Middle East, to mainland China, including Hong Kong, and to South Korea, for example. We’re now able to offer those contacts an increased portfolio of high quality craft beers and spirits, benefiting everyone, from the consumer to the brewer and distiller.
“Scotland has a great many outstanding craft brewers and craft distillers who make some fantastic products, beautifully packaged, beautifully marketed. What we do at JW Filshill International is give these world-class brewers and distillers a route to market where they lack resources in time, financial, contacts or administration in place.
“We operate under bond, with all the permissions in place with HMRC, the certificates for import and so. Combined, this means we are in the unique position to support the smaller craft producers to export and get their beautiful products into international markets, such as bars and retailers in Tokyo, Beijing, Dubai and Seoul.”
Earlier this year, Chris Miller and fellow Craft Beer Clan director Simon Hannah, who is also managing director of parent company JW Filshill, were in Dubai as part of a trade visit in partnership with Scottish Development International and Scotland Food and Drink. They then went on to the massive FoodEx show in Japan where they initiated several supply deals on behalf of Scottish craft distillers.
One of the challenges, Chris said, is that the international market is dominated by major global players, such as Diageo and Pernod Ricard, who have massive market share and control the distribution of their brands. However, consumer demand was acting as a catalyst for new importers, who were keen to work with the JW Filshill International and its members.
Chris said: “In the past year there has been strong growth in the craft sector, particularly spirits, and we have been meeting with some new importers who are very keen to start importing craft and premium spirits from Scotland.”
“I think what has been key to the success of the Craft Beer Clan has been the collaborative approach we’ve all taken, working closely with SDI, Scotland Food and Drink, and of course the craft brewers and distillers whose expertise and brilliant products are rightly sought-after all over the world. We’re very proud to be representing them on the global stage.”