In Just A Few Short Years, Island Brands Has Achieved Widespread Success In Beer.

In recent years, Island Brands has been making waves in the southeastern United States beer market with its signature product, Island Coastal Lager. Wrapped in packaging modeled after the white sandy beaches of Cuba and the Caribbean Basin, the beer has quickly become a staple in beer coolers at a variety of major food retailers. Touted as a super-premium beer brand on a mission to bring better, cleaner beer to the world, its success could serve as a roadmap for other brands to follow in a rapidly changing alcohol landscape.

Based in Charlestown, South Carolina, the company was founded in 2016 by tech entrepreneurs Scott Hansen and Brandon Perry. Shortly after President Obama lifted the country’s travel embargo in 2016, the two friends shared a daydream during a sailing trip to Cuba. Their original plan was to create a beer to import into Cuba. They hated the two Cuban state-sponsored brands on the island and wanted to bring something better to the coast.

After some research, they found out that they could not export beer to Cuba. Still, there was a growing market for an easy-to-drink beer made with quality ingredients for an active lifestyle. They eschewed the traditional route of creating a beer brand by building a brewery and slowly growing the brand from scratch, and instead brought with them a startup tech mentality. They focused on creating a company that values ​​agility, scalability, challenging established norms and incorporating fast panning whenever required.

Instead of trying to build a craft beer brand, they deliberately targeted the super premium/import segment that large multinational breweries dominate. Troy Aikman’s new beer, Eight Beer in Texas, follows the same game plan.

“To be honest, we really had no business being in the beer business. Neither of us knew what we were doing, but that naivety turned out to be positive,” says Hansen, CEO of Island Brands. “We just thought ‘why not?’ when we were faced with obstacles that we had to overcome. Heck, we bought our first batch of painted cans from Ball before we landed our first account. Our path has led to some heartbreak, but a positive attitude and hard work can solve anything.”

To keep costs down, they decided to contract brew their beer and not invest a large chunk of their money in building a brewery. They also focused on getting their beers onto grocery store shelves, which is not easy to do in order to increase brand awareness and generate sales. Publix was the first brand to introduce their beer and built on that success Harris Teeter, Walmart
WMT
Kroeger
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and Food Lion followed.

They didn’t have a taproom, although they recently opened an Island Cabana Bar in Charleston, so the brand focused heavily on connecting with drinkers through social media and other online platforms. To help their community, they’ve made philanthropy part of their mission statement, participating in 1% for the Planet and donating to other charities.

Fueled by a $2 million Series A first round of funding, they have expanded their footprint outside of South Carolina. But it was her next step that launched her disruptive growth pattern. Inspired by other companies, notably BrewDog in Scotland, they launched a crowdfunding campaign on StartEngine in November 2020 to raise $1 million. They hit that number in 34 days and decided to continue building a network of investors/fans across the country to evangelize their brand and create a heat map that they could use to select the next states to expand. To date, they have raised $5.2 million from over 5,000 investors.

This willingness to color beyond borders and not to stick to established norms has led to success. They made Inc’s 2022 5000 list of the fastest growing private companies in the US based on Island Brands’ 3-year growth rate of 250%. Increasing their numbers has been an aggressive growth strategy that has resulted in more shelf space in stores and dollars on the bottom line. In 2020, they launched Island Active, a low-calorie beer aimed at health-conscious millennials and others. In 2021, they added lagers with fruit to their core lager line, and that year they introduced an FMB
FMB
Product called Crush. They also recently announced that they are expanding their business into spirits and will be launching two more products in early 2023 – a Spiked Tea and a Spiked Lemonade.

According to Hansen, her focus on creating a connection along with her nimbleness and focus on the message has contributed to her success.

“We are a branding and marketing company that has worked hard to build a real relationship with our fans. I like to say we’re a lifestyle brand that just so happens to be in the beverage space,” he says. “It helped us create the focus we need to generate ideas, create brands and grow. I truly believe that we are the spearhead for many other beverage brands that will come after us and learn from our lessons.”

Island Brands is currently sold in twelve Southeastern states along with several international markets and has fleet-wide service on Carnival Cruise Lines. They will be expanding into the Northeast in the coming months and plan to become a national brand in the next few years. Going against the current seems to make waves, but it can also lead to success.

Source

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