As headlines continue to mourn the demise of manufacturing giants in the US and local headlines endorse fears among the local business community, one small local business, which produces Caybrew and CayLight, has bucked the trend and decided to tap into the lucrative imported beer market in the United States. Caybrew’s Kate Cuming reports.
The Cayman Island’s Brewery Ltd. became the first beer manufacturer of Cayman to export its product off these Islands in early summer 2009.
The first container of Caybrew was shipped to Tampa in April by Thompson’s Shipping and Tropical and was received by two Floridian entrepreneurs of 4Palms, the company that won the rights to distribute Caybrew across the USA.
The import of Caybrew, into the US was borne of a story that rings of positive entrepreneurialism set within the Cayman tourism industry and flies in the face of the global recession we find ourselves living through.
Fritz Hofmeister and Larry Glover, owners of 4Palms, had seen their previous businesses almost grind to a halt by September 2008 when the Florida building market in which they were involved virtually came to a standstill. Glover decided to fly to his favourite Island getaway, The Cayman Islands, and do some serious thinking and indulge in his love of diving. On his trip he sampled his first Caybrew and noted that the Cayman Islands had a great national beer, which he soon found out, it did not export.
“A month or so later I was commiserating with Hofmeister at a pub in Tampa about how poorly our businesses were doing,” said Glover. “Gazing at a tropical beer poster, we decided that the dream business was beer and I started to tell Hofmeister about this quality beer in Cayman, Caybrew.”
The partners flew down to Cayman, started discussions with the Brewery, which resulted in the first container of Caybrew arriving in Tampa. 4Palms now own the distribution rights to sell Caybrew across the USA.
Since it began production of Caybrew in 2007, CIB has managed to spearhead many positive initiatives in Cayman in only two years. CIB is the only true recycler of bottles in Cayman. The brewery buys back each Caybrew bottle brought back to the brewery where it washes, sterilises, refills and sells them in a good as new bottle back to the many bars and restaurants around the three Islands. The company also won Cayman its first international gold medal for manufacturing a quality beer, as awarded by the Monde Selection Committee in Bruxelles in 2007.
The next step for this successful product will see it become one of the first manufactured products made in the Cayman Islands to be exported to the United States. Caybrew is about to show what it is made of as it takes on the competitors in the world’s biggest beer market.
CIB General Manager Allen Chu Fook said that the export of Caybrew was a truly monumental move, not just for the brewery but for the Cayman Islands, as Caybrew would be spreading the word about Cayman as a destination.
“We are extremely excited to commence our export strategy just two years after the launch of Caybrew in the Cayman Islands. We had very positive feedback from initial test marketing of Caybrew in the USA and we expect the brand to do very well in selected niche markets,” he added.
Beers that conjure up images of tropical vacations have done well in the US market but Caybrew is not just evocative of memories of great times in the sun, it’s a great tasting beer that can compete with the best of the international brands. Given its standing, Fook is confident that Caybrew will be as successful in the US as it has been at home, which will secure the future for CIB.
Caybrew’s foray into international markets will not only see it act as an ambassador for the destination, but it demonstrates what Cayman manufacturers can achieve. Dax Basdeo from the Cayman Islands Investment Bureau, which has supported and worked closely with the brewery since it opened, says this shows what can be achieved with hard work, professional and commercial expertise and, of course, a quality product.
“This is an excellent opportunity for CIB and is an example of the potential of our local businesses and entrepreneurs. As a past client of the Investment Bureau, it is gratifying to see this business grow and succeed and to hopefully have an even greater economic impact locally through the expansion of its market overseas,” Basdeo noted.
4Palms has managed to create a buzz about Caybrew in the short time it has been selling in Tampa. Within days of its arrival, the Tampa daily, The St. Petersburg Times, had jumped on the story and it was front page news, a feel good story about how the great American dream can win over, even during tough times like our modern day recession.
“Since the article came out we have been promoting Caybrew around Tampa and customers have been congratulating us on finding such a great tasting beer in the Cayman Islands and they already know and want to support our venture, since they read about us in the paper – it has been phenomenal,” said Glover.
“There is a benefit to Cayman in terms of increasing or improving the tourism product abroad,” said Chu Fook. “We hope that the Caybrew brand grows across the USA and as we do, increase the awareness of The Cayman Islands in the markets we are going operate in.”
The US is a lucrative market and the beer is expected to retail for about $28 a case which will put Caybrew in a head to head position with other imported beers such as Corona, Heineken, Red Stripe and El Presidente.
“We have always had our eye on the export market since the CI market is finite and so the US market is a big one for us,” continued Chu Fook. “If CIB is able to capture a fraction of a per cent of the market in Florida then we will be doing very well.”
Over the Memorial Weekend in May at a popular bar and restaurant, Sloppy Joes, Treasure Island Beach where the Battle of Bands music festival was taking place, there was no doubt that there was a buzz about Caybrew as people tried it for the first time.
“We are thrilled at how positive the feedback is when people try a Caybrew for the first time. We feel many people try Caybrew because of the association with the beautiful Cayman Islands and then love it and order another,” said Liz Hofmeister, 4Palms partner. “We have had also had many customers say they had a Caybrew on a dive trip, cruise or honeymoon and they are delighted that Caybrew is in Tampa and such happy island memories are evoked.”
The export of Caybrew has been commended by the Ministry of Tourism and Investment who said that the export was a fantastic development for everyone involved including the country. When any local business is able to take their product to the world stage it is pleasing, in this case the Government is thrilled since it supported the establishment of The Cayman Islands Brewery in Cayman. From a tourism point of view, this is a marvelous opportunity to create more buzz, in other niche markets internationally. Well done Caybrew!
The first export of Caybrew set sail in April and the second shipment left in June. Caybrew is being rolled out across Florida bars such as The Lodge, The Lime, The Bungalow, The Deck, The Tapper Bar, Grillsmith South Tampa, The Press Box and Cayman’s own is the featured beer of the month at Crabby Bills at Indian Beach for the whole of June.