The Gluten Free Beer Journey – Almost 3 years on...
Since opening our Taproom in December 2018 and packaging our first beer later that month, TWØBAYS is now the largest independently owned gluten free beer brand in Australia – with much more to come!
Winning Xero Australian Small Business of the Year is testament to the fantastic team we've built at TWØBAYS and our brilliant supporters who drive us to continue improving and innovating.
The challenge of COVID
With more than 80% growth in FY21, our mix of revenue streams enabled us to weather the challenges that COVID presented. We generate strong revenue from our direct-to-customer online sales, and our wholesales business is well split between ‘off-premise’ (bottle shops) and ‘on-premise’ (pubs and restaurants). Now we can't wait to open our Taproom again in late October.
In addition to relationships with Australia's major retail chains and independent outlets across the country, our focus is getting beer on taps in venues now that the country is opening up again. We know that everyone loves a cold schooner with their friends and people who have to, or choose to, avoid gluten should not miss out!
We also know that ‘gluten free’ is not a passing fad, but a way of life for many consumers – and a growing market. In 2020, a report in the Medical Journal of Australia said that 25% of Australians (6 million people) are regularly avoiding gluten.
For that reason, we launched a second gluten free beer brand in September 2021 named GFB. We've released the first beer in that range; an easy-drinking full strength Aussie-style Draught beer that comes in a full 24-can slab (TWØBAYS craft beer comes in 4-packs and cartons of 16 cans).
Gluten Free Beer Tap Takeovers
Earlier in 2021, we started doing Australia's first gluten free beer tap takeovers in pubs and hotels across the country. These events allow gluten free consumers to go to a local pub and have a range of beers and food – which is something that everyone else takes for granted – but is a big deal for a gluten free person!
We support our retail partners with a dedicated field sales team, as we believe that we should be doing as much to support them as they receive from other beer brands. We host tasting sessions in bottle shops around the country, and we advertise our complete stockists list on our website – and also through paid social media adverts each day. We know that most alcohol sales are consumed within hour of purchase, so want our consumers to know exactly where their closest stockists are.
We also have a range of in-store support that we can provide a customer – whether that’s tap decals, bar mats, coasters or posters letting consumers know that they can buy a gluten free beer at that venue.
Like all other food businesses, to make the best products you need access to the best ingredients – in our case gluten free malts. We have been successful in securing the exclusive Australian distribution rights for the best gluten free malts in the world – from the US – and as part of our commitment to our malt providers we have created a number of recipes for gluten free home brewers – and made these available on our website.
We are also always looking at different marketing campaigns to create awareness of our brand and trial of our beers. This includes events like ‘Taking our Taproom on the Road’ – which took our 9 taproom beers to venues in both Sydney and Brisbane in February; tap takeovers for Coeliac Awareness Week – where we asked venues in every capital city in Australia to put up to 5 of our beers on tap for the whole event week.
Our latest sales innovation has been to offer a free can of beer to consumers in capital cities (starting with Sydney and Melbourne).
Why a gluten free brewery?
Our Founder Richard Jeffares was diagnosed with Coeliac Disease in 2015. This means a lifetime avoidance of gluten – and beer has plenty of that. So, for a couple of years, Richard played around with craft ciders – but it was an interesting IPA that he really missed, and he thought that there would be many other people that avoided gluten who might feel the same… so in 2017 he decided to do something about it! After lots of market research, he signed a lease on a factory, and we were away!
In politics, Paul Keating used to love the saying ‘In the race of life, always back self-interest – at least you know it's trying’… and with TWØBAYS this is true every day! Richard is a perfect example of the customer we are looking to provide a wonderful beer and experience to!
Our vision is to have a TWØBAYS gluten free beer available for our community to enjoy – wherever and whenever they want it. This could be at their favourite pub or restaurant, or just at their local bottle shop so they can grab a pack and bring it to a friend’s BBQ.
That flagship beer we first launched in 2018 (Pale Ale) won a Gold Medal at the 2020 Independent Brewers Association Beer Awards, and is ranged nationally with Dan Murphy's.
We spend a lot of time and money investing in ways to reduce our impact on the planet, including installing a 33.54kW solar system which in its first six months than 10,000 kilograms of CO2 – the equivalent of planting almost 300 trees. We purchase 100% of our remaining energy needs from registered Green Power suppliers.
We have also completed a carbon assessment of major parts of our business and have purchased carbon offsets for the emissions that we are unable to offset – another 100,000 kilograms of CO2.
All our spent grain (after brewing) is collected by a local farmer who uses it to feed their livestock. That’s almost 85 tonnes of grain put to great use! We also send the food scraps from our Taproom to a local farm for them to feed to their chickens and goats.
We made a decision from the start to avoid using glass in any part of our business. We use aluminium cans because it’s better for the beer, it’s lighter and stronger for transporting, which means we can get more beer onto a single pallet and it's fully (and indefinitely) recyclable and saves 95% of the energy required to make new aluminium. Every aluminium beer can you recycle, saves enough energy to power a television set for three hours!
Even the wines and cider served in our Taproom are poured from a keg, so we don’t have any glass waste!
Even though we are a relatively small business, we still look to ‘give back’ where we can. Earlier this year we collaborated with the well-known Queensland band Ball Park Bloom (who have two gluten free members!) to brew a special beer and raise money to help support musicians in need. We were blown away with the response from the market and ended up raising over $10,000 for SupportAct.
What is a key differentiator for TWØBAYS?
We believe that our focus on an extremely large single consumer market is a key differentiator for our business. We have a very well-defined strategy for where we want to be positioned in the market, and where we see our growth coming from. This ensures that we don’t get distracted from our goals. There are many ‘temptations’ on the journey, but we can always go back to this strategy to decide whether it’s the right option for us to pursue or not.
Having a founder that is our ‘ideal customer’ also means that we have some strong insights into our consumers behaviour – whether that’s buying behaviour in bottle shops or venues or concerns around product safety and assurances (which is why all our beer is tested and endorsed by Coeliac Australia).
We strive for excellence in both our beer quality and every touchpoint with a customers and consumers – and technology plays a huge role in allowing us to do that with minimal investment of time.
TWØBAYS uses Xero Business for all our accounting needs and reports. From the beginning, we invested in Xero because it provided the full suite of business tools that we needed. The integration to the broader Xero ecosystem was also critical to us, and it allowed us to use other business systems to fill the gaps where Xero itself didn’t provide the level of functionality we needed.