Brewery commits to future in Dunbar
Euan Venters, managing director of Greene King's brewing and bands division
THE boss of Dunbar's Belhaven Brewery has refused to rule out further streamlining of the business - despite achieving volume sales growth in its products of nearly four per cent.
But Euan Venters - managing director of Greene King's brewing and brands division, which runs Belhaven - still insists the firm is committed to keeping brewing operations in Dunbar.
Preliminary results for Greene King for the 52 weeks to April 29 this year show that Belhaven products "continue to perform well" despite a "more competitive market".
Belhaven's most popular product, Belhaven Best, remains Scotland's top-selling ale product and won Marketing Strategy of the Year at the Scottish Business Awards in February, while the newly-launched stout Belhaven Black has had "on-trade installations ahead of schedule" and is now in more than 500 outlets.
Overall in the brewing and brands division - which also includes Greene King IPA, Abbot Ale and Old Speckled Hen - revenue was up by five per cent but the operating profit dropped by 0.3 per cent from £33.1 million to £33 million.
Greene King saw its total revenue across the business increase from £1,042.7m to £1,140.4m - taking its profit before tax to £152m, an 8.6 per cent increase on the previous year.
Mr Venters welcomed the results, telling the Courier: "The market is obviously tough and we've continued to grow volumes despite a tough economy and a lot of competition, so it's a very good performance.
"I think the reason we have continued to do well is that we offer a great selection of products.
"Our own Belhaven Best continues to grow and remains the number one ale in Scotland, and the level of service we provide is very, very good.
"We've just started a new TV campaign for Belhaven Best which evolved from the old campaign, but is much more confident and brand-led.
"Last year, we also invested £850,000 in the brewery in Dunbar, and that shows you very clearly that we are committed to Dunbar.
"It was an important step for us. It gives us the chance for Belhaven to continue to grow."
Belhaven products occupy 37 per cent of the market in Scotland and the company employs about 158 people in Dunbar, but the brewery has cut operations in the town in recent years.
At the end of 2009, 19 jobs were lost when its Brewery Lane bottling plant relocated to Greene King's Suffolk base, while a further 15 administration jobs went at its Spott Road HQ.
Mr Venters said: "I think it will continue to be tough because these are tough times.
"We've invested in the brewery and we continue to give a good service, and we will build for the future."
Asked what it could mean for the future of the brewery, he added: "We are always looking to do things as efficiently as possible, so we have to continue to do what's required to remain efficient.
"It's a tough old market, so I wouldn't like to say at the moment.
"But the key thing is that we continue to make sure that Belhaven continues to be brewed in Dunbar and that we remain competitive in the market."
Rooney Anand, Greene King chief executive, said of the results: "Our team has once again delivered record results and attractive returns to our shareholders in a difficult environment.
"We have achieved strong growth and made further strategic progress. All our businesses are building customer loyalty by delivering industry-leading value, service and quality as we strive to be Britain's best pubs and beer business."