Last Canadian Beer: The Moosehead Story
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Featuring important insights from the company's current executives and employees, Last Canadian Beer: The Moosehead Story is not only a fascinating company history, but also a candid look at how a small New Brunswick business remains competitive in a difficult global marketplace. While other Canadian beer brands long ago sold out to American and European interests, Moosehead has remained fiercely independent. It hasn't been easy: Family dynamics and economic pressures will always pose a challenge to the Moosehead brand. And in an age where a handful of international brewing giants control the beer business, Moosehead's continued success isn t guaranteed. But under the Olands family s determined and careful leadership, the future at Moosehead seems as bright as it ever has. Last Canadian Beer is the remarkable story of a time-honoured business, a complex family, and a beloved beer.
While this figure is lower than Derek would prefer, the fact Moosehead has remained popular in the U. S. for thirty years is a feat in and of itself. “The thing that’s set Moosehead apart is that they’re an exporter versus just a domestic brewery,” says widely respected Toronto-based beer marketing consultant Bob Scott. “Traditionally, their sales have been about forty percent to the United States, which is impressive…Nobody ever had that reliance on the U. S. ” Scott believes that by the late-1970s, Moosehead would not have been viable as a regional brewer.
Although the committee only met four times a year, it was very formal; the meetings involved the company’s key players, the proceedings were recorded, and the minutes were presented to then-chair P. W. “That was…the first real start of proper marketing in the company,” says Derek. “Basically it gave me the power to make decisions because I managed this process and…I took over the whole sales and marketing function. ” Derek was the first Oland in the family busi–ness who was not a brewer. He’d come to the business as a brewing marketer instead.
With the new agreement, Moosehead was able to close down its Dartmouth operation and Labatt its plant in Saint John. Today, Moosehead’s input into government regulatory matters is handled primarily by Andrew Oland, CEO McCubbin, Levesque, and to a lesser degree, long-time employee and vice-president of operations Peter Henneberry. Moosehead will not divulge what, if any, regulatory changes they would like to see entertained by provincial governments, except for the situation in Ontario, where they are on the record for wanting changes to the retail environment.
We didn’t do it as well as we should have,” he says. “I mean, we should have piled the coal up. We should have put more investment in. ” Striking with more advertising and promotion while the iron was hot would have allowed Moosehead to increase prices. Without the additional investment and support, the price of Moosehead and the volume sold stayed relatively flat for seven or eight years. Once consumer attitudes about the price became fixed, the company lost its chance to move the price upward. Sales revenues leveled off and eventually decreased.
He did become president of Labatt after the Olands sold the business, and he led the company through a considerable period of profitability. It was Sidney who dared to introduce the twist-off beer cap when all the industry experts said bottlenecks couldn’t be threaded. This decision alone gave Labatt an instantaneous two to three point jump in market share and revolutionized the industry in Canada. Moosehead and other Canadian breweries had no choice but to play catch-up and replace their bottles with twist-offs in response.