“The brewing industry is an extremely important part of the fabric on Ontario. As the sector grows, new breweries open and with that, jobs are created and there is a knock-on impact on the economy here in Ontario. And that is only a good thing,” explains Scott Simmons, the president of Ontario Craft Brewers.
Simmons is now six months into the role he took in the summer of last year, and is more fired up than ever before. Simmons joined the OCB following a career that involved roles in the packaged goods, retail, agency, and sport administration industries.
With a deep knowledge of the brewing industry, he has previously worked as vice president, marketing and business development for The Beer Store from 2001-2007, where he led the development of a long range strategic plan to guide the organizational retail renewal program.
And it’s The Beer Store, among other outlets, that remain very much in his thoughts as we start 2018.
“It has been a busy but productive few months as president of this great organisation. We’re finalising our strategic plan that we’re soon ready to take to market, and I believe it’s a good time to be talking about beer and brewing in Ontario,” he explains. “We are looking to continue to advocate with all levels of government because, quite simply, its a very important part of the wider economy in Ontario. Local people are starting businesses, hiring local people and the money is staying here.
Simmons pinpoints that craft beer has a 7.6% market share of a $1bn dollar industry in Ontario, with aggressive plans to grow that further.
“If you double that, or perhaps triple it, we are looking at a very significant figure indeed. So I think it’s a very good time to be speaking to the government and work out how we can achieve this growth,” he says.
In his position, Simmons succeeded industry leader and champion, John Hay, who founded the association in 2003.
He was chosen due to his extensive expertise in strategic planning, governance, financial planning, brand management, and business development qualities. Simmons’ desire is to help develop and execute the OCB’s long term strategic vision and annual operating plans.
Part of this vision is to continue to improve market and retail access conditions for craft breweries. Something Simmons feels is going in the right direction.
“We’re seeing increased presence at the LCBO while there is considerable space at The Beer Store, too,” he says. “I’m also excited to see grocery stores that previously mandated craft from Ontario 20% often increasing that by an additional 10-15% due to demand.”
Simmons goes on to explain that increasing the organisation’s membership remains a key part of the OCB’s future.
“We’re at nearly 100 members now and we implore other breweries that they should continue to be part of this tremendous fraternity. They are helping the broader picture and also helping themselves by being part of the OCB,” he says. The tremendous government funding we received is now over, so membership is more key than ever and it’s critical for the future of the association.”
He adds: “I feel that the Canadian brewing industry in 2018 is even more fascinating than ever. We have a great foundation but there is a tonne of room to grow and we are in a good position to achieve that potential.
“So let’s keep producing great beer and continue educating consumers. Let’s show consumers why craft beer is so special and the stories behind each beer. I see no reason why we can’t double or triple the market share craft beer has in Ontario. We just need to work to make it happen.”