Creating products that customers love – Interview with Chris Ives of Ilkley Brewery

Ilkley

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Today’s interview is with Chris Ives, managing director and founder of Ilkley Brewery. I was introduced to Chris by the nice folk at the UK’s Department for Business, Innovation and Skills as someone with a great story and one that would appeal to readers of this blog and listeners to my podcast interview series.

This interview follows on the back of my last interview: Time to reboot your business and you? Interview with Mitch Joel about Ctrl Alt Delete and is number sixty-three in the series of interviews with authors and business leaders that are doing great things and helping businesses innovate, become more social and deliver better service.

Here’s the highlights from the interview I did with Chris:

  • Chris’ background is in surveying but has always been a real ale fan.
  • However, when the recession hit a few years ago Chris found himself having to look for something else to do.
  • Their lack of experience, he believes, has been both a help and a hinderance.
  • However, being self-taught overall he believes has been helpful.
  • Micro-brewing is a fast growing industry as consumers become more discerning, there is an increasing desire to support local business and they want more choice.
  • Right from the start they have asked their potential customers, locals at their local pub and members of The Campaign for Real Ale (CAMRA) for their opinions on their brews.
  • They continue to do this and connect more and more with their customers via social media (Twitter and Facebook) inviting many of them down to the brewery to taste all of their beers on a continuous basis.
  • This is really helpful for them and helps them build relations with their end consumers as most of their beer is sold through pubs and shops and otherwise it would be difficult for them to engage with their customers and ask them for feedback.
  • Connecting and talking to their customers via social media has allowed them also to better understand the profile and demographics of their customers. They have found that the craft beer market that they are in is quite young, increasingly female and interested in creative brewing and beers.
  • Production capacity is running at 50,000 pints a week but they expect to double in size in the next year or so driven by export sales.
  • If Chris could have his time again he believes that that he would have started with more ambition and, if working capital allowed, started to export earlier.
  • However, what he believes they did do right is that they focused on and got their product right first.
  • Chris believes that it is never too late to try something new and do something that you love.
  • Ilkley Brewey recently became the Craft Beer Battle Winners 2013 at a blind tasting competition in London with their 6% Mary Jane IPA.

About Chris

Chris Ives Ilkley Brewery

Chris is a Chartered Surveyor by background but launched Ilkley Brewery in 2009 after the recession had big impact on his 20-year career in commercial property. Sales for the brewery “have grown from £40,000 in the first year to more than £1m, producing profit margins of around 15pc” (Source: The Telegraph: Southern US has a taste for Ilkley beer).

Production capacity is running at 50,000 pints a week, with bottles of the company’s leading brands, Mary Jane, Ilkley Best, Ilkley Black and Ilkley Pale now selling in Morrisons, Asda, Sainsbury and Booth supermarkets in the North as well as Harvey Nichols stores and restaurants around the country.

You can find out more the firm at their website: Ilkley Brewery, connect with them on Twitter: @Ilkleybrewery and connect with Chris on LinkedIn here.

Photo Credit: tejvanphotos via Compfight cc

Note: Do you keep up to date with get this blog via RSS Reader? Do you use Google Reader? Did you know that Google Reader is shutting down on June 30th?

I’ve recently switched all of my feeds over to Feedly, a new and popular RSS reader. You can check out more options here and here.

Alternatively, you could subscribe by email here.

Comments

  1. Enjoyed the story Adrian.

    Interesting that the rules of business (know what your customers want) stay constant but the mechanism for applying them changes

    • Indeed, James.
      What I also found interesting was Chris’ example of showing that it’s never too late to change what you do, follow your passion and create a business that customers love.

      Adrian

Trackbacks

  1. […] Nick also believes that they have benefited from a change in consumer tastes and a growing interest in niche, quality providers. This is similar to the trends that Ilkley Brewery are benefiting from in the craft beer market. I spoke to Ilkley Brewey in a previous interview: Creating products that customers love – Interview with Chris Ives of Ilkley Brewery […]

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