While some in the craft beer industry debate the craft-ness of the Craft Brew Alliance (CBA), there’s no debating that CBA member Kona Brewing Co. is growing at a rapid rate. The final numbers for Kona’s 2012 shipments point to continued steady growth in its home market of Hawaii, the U.S. mainland and abroad, which the company attributed to increased marketing of its flagship brand Longboard Island Lager. Shipments totaled 220,000 barrels (bbls) in 2012, representing a gain of 47,200 bbls, or 27.3 percent, over 2011’s total of 172,800 bbls shipped. The Hawaii-based company also saw an 18 percent increase in shipments in its home market.
“Strength in the home market is key for our growth in other markets,” said Kona Brewing president Mattson Davis. “The support of our community where we created and brewed our first beer here in Kona 18 years ago is a springboard to our success on the mainland because it’s what makes us authentically Hawaiian, and craft beer consumers know this. They can taste it on the mainland and really get that sense of place that our Liquid Aloha delivers.”
Another factor in Kona’s 2012 success was the accelerated sales growth of the company’s flagship Longboard Island Lager, a year-round beer representing more than 50 percent of Kona’s shipment volume. In March 2012, the brewery began to offer Longboard Island Lager in cans, a move that was extremely well received as it expanded the occasions where “Liquid Aloha” could be enjoyed. The typical Kona consumer, who is active and on the go, enjoyed being able to take Kona where glass bottles often aren’t allowed, such as at the beach or pool.
The August rollout of Big Wave Golden Ale to the mainland was another highlight of 2012. Big Wave, a longtime craft beer staple in Hawaii, became the third in Kona Brewing’s portfolio of year-round craft beers, joining Longboard Island Lager and Fire Rock Pale Ale. After launching at Doheny Surf Festival in Southern California, excitement for the beer swept across the mainland to New York and Big Wave is now available year-round in all 36 states where Kona is currently distributed.
Kona’s fan base also expanded in 2012, with more people wanting to connect with the feeling of aloha. “Increased traffic at our three restaurants and retail, as well as more social media traction and support of sports in and around water, showed us that more people are relating to the Always Aloha lifestyle that Kona inspires,” said Davis. “It makes perfect sense — Kona’s labels and the inspiration they provide take craft drinkers to a simpler, more laid back place where talking story with friends and family is the centerpiece of daily life.”