Our favorite craft beer promo concept, the Maine Beer Box, is heading to Nova Scotia, Canada this week. This will be only its third trip to promote Maine craft beer in international markets, but there are already signs the marketing and economic development strategy is paying off.
For those unfamiliar, the Maine Beer Box is basically the world’s largest mobile kegerator. The 40-foot refrigerated shipping container packs in 78 beer taps and carries beers local to Maine to far-away destinations. Its maiden voyage was a trip to Iceland three years ago.
Since then, four Maine breweries have been selected to be part of Beer52, a craft beer club based in the U.K. that sends a selection of beers to customers around the world. The Maine Beer Box traveled to Leeds, England last fall. Baxter Brewing Company in Lewiston, D.L. Geary Brewing Company Inc. in Portland, Rising Tide Brewing Company in Portland, and Sebago Brewing Company in Gorham all ended up with significant orders for their beer overseas.
“This is an exciting next step in the evolution of the Maine Beer Box. We had already seen an increase in beer tourism as a result of our trips overseas and now brewers are making those first important steps towards establishing new international markets,” said Sean Sullivan, Executive Director of the Maine Brewers’ Guild.
Overcoming export issues
Traveling as one of many breweries on the Beer Box is one thing, but exporting tens of thousands dollars of beer overseas as an individual brewer can be challenging and exposes the company to risk and financing challenges.
The Maine International Trade Center has worked with brewers to help them figure out the process of overseas shipping and market development, and the four breweries that are part of Beer52 have also turned to the Export-Import Bank of the United States (EXIM) and NaviTrade Structured Finance to protect and finance their overseas sales through export credit insurance.
Brent Hoots, Principal and Founder of NaviTrade Structured Finance, helped write policies for the breweries using EXIM bank’s insurance and continues to work closely with the breweries managing their programs.
“The Export Credit Insurance allows the breweries to extend competitive open account credit terms needed by the international distributor, achieve financing of the breweries’ foreign receivables, and provides peace of mind to these Maine companies regarding their greatest fear – not getting paid,” said Hoots.
If the foreign buyer doesn’t pay, the insurance covers up to 95% of the invoice value. The insurance also allows U.S. businesses to be more competitive in the global market by offering credit terms up to 180 days. The four Maine breweries working with NaviTrade and EXIM Bank have already shipped close to $300,000 in beer exports protected by export credit insurance.
“We certainly want to take advantage of these new opportunities to sell our product beyond the U.S. market, but it’s a business strategy that does come with additional risk. NaviTrade and EXIM Bank are giving us the support we need to finance the sale of our beer to overseas markets and effectively manage the risk of not getting paid,” said Kai Adams, Founder of Sebago Brewing Company.