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East Midlands Chamber News

How Business Gateway grant showed Round Corner Brewing it 'can' beat coronavirus by adapting production

Colin Paige and Combie Cryan, co-founders of Round House Brewery with a selection of its award-winning beers

A Melton Mowbray brewery is set to double its output this year thanks to a grant from the Business Gateway Growth Hub and its ability to adapt the production of its world-class craft beers during the Covid-19 crisis.

Round Corner Brewing (RCB) secured a £25,000 business growth grant to help it create an in-house canning line so it could continue selling its products to retailers and online rather than in pubs after lockdown begun.

It is part of a near £200,000 investment in the business as it has also bought a can wrap-around labeller and date-coding inkjet printer alongside other kit.

CEO Combie Cryan said: “The canning line marks a pivot in our business away from a focus solely on draft beer sold in pubs and into cans sold in retail outlets.

“The grant has had a critical impact on our business. People in lockdown wanted their beer at home – with this investment, we’ve been able to go national and chase high-volume business, all with a greater level of confidence in the quality of the product.

“We can now produce retail-ready beer and react to the market much quicker as things change.

“We’re looking at an exponential increase in sales from a low base of 10,000 cans in 2019 to 75,000 this year, and double that by 2021.”

Award-winning Round Corner Brewing needed to pivot craft beer sales to retail

Although RCB is just two years old, it has already won numerous industry awards, including best draft lager in the world at the International Brewing Awards for its Gunmetal Black Lager in 2019, and six awards at the World Beer Awards in September.

Co-founders Colin Paige and Combie Cryan had been “brewing” the idea since 2005 when the friends met in New Zealand.

Colin is an international master brewer and Combie is the beer-loving CEO taking care of the business and finance side.

Colin Paige (left) and Combie Cryan (right) with Business Gateway business adviser Ann Cook (second left) and support officer Rita Ram (third left) at Round Corner Brewing

They have more than 25 years of business and brewing experience, and started RCB at Melton Mowbray Market in December 2018.

As the country went into lockdown, the demand for beer switched overnight from pubs and bars – which represented 95% of its business – to shops, supermarkets and online, although this trend towards retail was already happening before the pandemic.

For RCB, it marked a huge opportunity, but the company couldn’t supply to retailers without a major investment, particularly as it outsourced canning of its beers to third parties that weren’t as quality and deadline-focused as RCB needed them to be.

The brewery also needed to increase volume and lower the unit price of its cans to fulfil the bulk buying needs of supermarkets.

With an increase in demand, RCB will be able to keep its current team busy and eventually recruit more people to help it target a new B2C audience.

Combie added: “This is a big step toward our ambitions to become a world-class brewery, where we brew and package for other producers, as well as ourselves.

“Just in its first few days of operation, our new canning line has produced 20,000 cans of our world champion Gunmetal Black lager for a major supermarket.”

How Business Gateway team helped Round Corner Brewing secure grant to continue growth

The grant was secured following support from Business Gateway adviser Ann Cook and support officer Rita Ram.

Combie praised the “robust” support from Ann and Rita, saying: “We were challenged on all the right things, but they had an eye on the end results as Covid had contracted timescales.

“Rather than leaving us to our own devices to apply, they worked with us dynamically, so we put an accurate and compelling case forward.”

Ann Cook added: “Combie and his team were quick to react to what has been a devastating time for many businesses. I’m delighted the business growth grant has enabled RCB to capitalise on the opportunity and switch its focus to what the market now demands.”

The Business Gateway Growth Hub is part-funded by the European Regional Development Fund and run in partnership with the Chamber, Leicester City Council, Leicestershire County Council and the Leicester and Leicestershire Enterprise Partnership (LLEP).

It offers business growth grants to SMEs from £2,000 to £25,000 providing up to 35% towards the cost of capital projects. For more information, click here.