Craft Brewer Ryan McCracken Celebrates Major Business Success

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Craft brewer Ryan McCracken is celebrating a major retail success in Britain that will see his beers available to millions of online shoppers through Amazon’s digital food and drink channel.

The deal with Britain’s largest digital catering service is a major boost for the Portadown Brewery following a significant investment in new equipment to expand its business in the huge market outside of Ireland North.

And Amazon’s first order turned out to be much larger than Ryan expected.

Ryan explains: “We were approached by a specialist distributor in the UK a few months ago. The distributor, who focuses on selling products direct to Amazon, came across our beers at an event in Britain and thought we would be the perfect fit for Amazon.

“Having a direct channel to Amazon like this is a great opportunity for a small brewery like McCracken’s. What it does is give us UK-wide reach and means we can have our beers to homes in Britain the next day when ordered via Amazon Prime. It’s perfect for a last minute gift or just in time for the weekend.”

And it also aligns with Ryan’s strategic focus on accelerating sales there.

Another boost came from the order size of his beers. Amazon has listed its Irish Red Ale, Black Irish Stout, Irish Pale Ale and a mixed case of beers for new customers to sample the full range of its products. The deal reinforces the brewery’s reputation as one of the most successful in Northern Ireland.

“We didn’t expect the volume to be so high initially,” he continues. “We had the impression that the first orders would be low volume. When the first order was placed, we misinterpreted their order form.

“We thought they were only taking a few cases of each until the day before they were due to pick up their order. Luckily, we checked again and found that it wasn’t just a few cases. The order was for a few pallets! We burned the midnight oil and managed to get everything ready in time for collection the next morning.”

The brewery, which grew out of Ryan’s hobby, has since won numerous awards for its quality and exceptional taste. These include the UK Great Taste Awards and most recently a Gold Medal at the Irish Food and Drink Awards for his Black Irish Stout and Best Drink of the Year 2022. Ryan was also shortlisted at the Great British Food Awards.

Ryan is rightly gloating to be featured online on Amazon’s popular e-commerce site. What makes the deal with Amazon so significant is the fact that nearly 90% of UK shoppers now use the digital channel with 15 million subscribers to the Amazon Prime service. Amazon, moreover, is among the fastest growing food and beverage providers.

Amazon boost places Ryan McCracken of McCracken’s Real Ale in Portadown for rapid growth in Britain

He had invested heavily in the brewery before the lockdown and continued to maintain the small operation through off-the-shelf sales and online businesses, particularly in Britain. While the coronavirus lockdowns have hit all craft brewers hard, Ryan has continued to invest in the brewery and is now beginning to see the benefits of his faith in the post-pandemic future. He invested in a new cask line ahead of lockdown.

Upgrading the systems tripled production and allowed it to expand into other markets and minimize any potential risk in certain sectors. Its drive for export-led growth has translated into business in Italy, for example.

Ryan, who founded the brewery in September 2018 from his garage, has also worked with Rademon Estate Distillery in Crossgar, Co Down, home to multi-award winning Shortcross Gin and Irish Single Malt Whiskey, to explore opportunities in Britain. Brittany, receiving good orders from individual beer lovers. This activity also aroused the interest of potential distributors.

The brewery offers a wide range of bottle-conditioned beers and also supplies draft and keg beer. He expanded the handcrafted range at the brewery with his team of four to include an American Pale Ale and a German Hefeweizen. He has just launched his Premium Pilsner in barrel format.

Ryan is passionate about the company and its range of beers, regularly adding to his portfolio.

He added: “I love brewing and everything about it, taking a recipe idea, turning it into reality, taking the first sip and then seeing other people really enjoy something that I created.

“I also love my sales days where I go out and meet new and existing customers and the feeling of accomplishment when I’ve made a sale.

“It’s also very rewarding to build relationships with our existing customers, half the time when I’m on delivery I spend more time chatting with our customers than on actual deliveries!”

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