Few craft beer brands have mastered the art of the instantly striking visual the way Driftwood Brewery Co. has. The moment you see a can or a bottle wrapped in those gorgeous illustrations, you know you’re looking at a Driftwood product. As it turns out, the instinct to be exciting is deep in the award-winning Victoria-based brewery’s DNA.
“Jason Meyer, Kevin Hearsum, and myself founded Driftwood in 2008. We all worked at Lighthouse Brewery together; Jason and Kevin were brewers and I was in sales. Jason & Kevin just wanted to brew innovative and different styles of beer, to have control over our offerings in a market we could see was evolving. Customers had started asking for diverse and new kinds of beers and we wanted to deliver them,” says Gary Lindsay, Driftwood’s Director of Marketing and Sales.
Right away, the brewery experienced “good support from the local market. Buyers were interested in local beers; they’d say, ‘Sure, send us a few kegs.’ Of course, packaging our beer in 650 ml bottles was a big step forward, because if you’re only selling in bars and restaurants, you’re missing a lot of people. You have to let people enjoy your beer where they want to enjoy it, whether that’s at home, camping, or wherever else.”
Naturally, the three partners faced all the usual trials of starting up: “getting a space was hard; securing the capital and funding was a challenge. We were stretched thin as far as our expectations and timelines went to get revenue coming in. Keeping everything on budget was a challenge.”
And then, of course, the global financial crisis of 2008 hit. Suddenly, the fledgling brewery was working to grow its new business in an epic economic downturn. But the timing just worked out. “If we had started up a month later, I doubt we would have survived. But we did survive. And we figured, ‘If we can do this now, we’ll probably fare well going forward.’” Gary chuckles. “Of course, that was put to the test in 2020.”
That year, with the pandemic largely shutting down the hospitality industry, the need to focus on retail became acute. “With COVID-19, the competition at the retail level became very fierce. Our brand had to stand out to get a presence on the floor. We needed concise clear marketing ideas that didn’t look gimmicky.”
Luckily, Driftwood’s iconic use of illustrations already gave the brand a leg up. But how could that brand be presented in a maximally attention-getting way in aver competitive retail market?
“We were looking for ideas, and [our packaging partner who create our Folding Carton Boxes] Great Little Box Company/Ideon Packaging (GLBC) sent us different images of floor displays. Within a couple of weeks, we had samples. We ended up combining three things: a case stacker, elevated boxes and a backer card”
One of the perks of the new floor displays is the ability to customize set-up. “They’re designed to be modular. You can fit them together or use them separately. That gives us the flexibility to use them differently based on the store and what looks and works better in each context.”
“We’re so happy to have something that works as well as these floor displays do. And the whole GLBC team is so responsive and resourceful. Everything from turnaround time to prompt responses to requests for change shows how customer-oriented they are.”
As makers of what is arguably BC’s best-loved IPA, Fat Tug, Driftwood is in no danger of fading from the average craft beer lover’s consciousness. Still, the team realizes that their success is tied to their unflagging commitment to quality.
“We always say that on a scale of 1 to 10, we try to go for 11 while still maintaining a balance in the profile. That’s why we are our own biggest critics.”
With all their operations newly solidified under one roof and a new tasting room, Driftwood Brewery is entering a gratifying new phase. As always, we’re grateful to support a brand that never takes a break from being exciting.