The man who’s saying ‘cheers’ to Adnams after 25 years – and still not ready to call time
PUBLISHED: 06:00 25 May 2019
It’s a brand which has come a long way since being famous for its frothy pints downed by men in tweed jackets and bowler hats. Caroline Culot spoke to the man who’s helped spearhead the evolution of Adnams over the past 25 years
"I thought I would be here five years or so and move on but this place gets in your blood."
Andy Wood has worked his way up the ranks at Adnams from joining a quarter of a century ago after leaving his job at Norwich Union. He never dreamed he'd end up as the brewery boss.
He has succeeded because he recognised Adnams needed to change. A much-loved local brewery fondly remembered for delivering its beer on horse-drawn carts and appealing to a loyal customer base, it was missing out on a huge market - women and the young.
Now, Adnams is known for its gins, vodkas and low-alcohol beer, favoured by millennials of both sexes while still delivering the much-loved traditional pint.
And the transformation has happened while navigating the brand to compete with giant global names with huge financial clout as well as the growing number of micro-brewers with a strong local following.
Andy, who likes to wear an expensive suit to work with a white shirt but no tie, said: "The little guys can out-localise us and the big guys can out-market us, so we have got to have a really clear story, a really clear brand proposition.
"A decade ago we did some market research which told us the Adnams brand was very masculine so we have successfully reached out to those we weren't serving without disenfranchising our core customers. The female customer is as important to Adnams as the male. If you are growing a modern brand in this world, you have got to appeal widely."
But how? Adnams is tapping into a new market with its Copper House pink gins and low alcohol Ghost Ship '0.5' which is produced in the same process as its stronger big brother but with the alcohol stripped out at the end.
"Millennials are not choosing to drink in quite the numbers that I did at that age and people are choosing to moderate their consumption. Going forward, you are going to see more different flavoured gins and beers of the 0.5 variety but also continued product development of things we are good at be it cask beers, keg beers, craft beers."
The proof is in the figures - in the past decade, revenue has increased from £47.1m in 2008 to £78.9m in 2018 and in that same period, retail sales have doubled, take home sales quadrupled and export's grown by 83%.
Meanwhile, Adnams has continued to invest more than £20m in the business over the past decade and the community too - most recently £4.5m in the town's Swan Hotel.
It's a remarkable success story and Adnams now produces a vodka recently voted the 'best in the world' as well as opening the UK's first distillery on the same site as its brewery with its tour just voted as one of the country's top attractions by the Lonely Planet guide.
It uses locally grown rye and barley, 100% renewable electricity, reusable equipment saving water and electricity and its distribution centre in Reydon was the first in the UK to be built out of sustainable materials.
But what drives Andy is his passion for the area. Hailing from London, his family moved to Norfolk when he was a young teen so his dad could work at Norwich Union while his mum worked as a nurse.
"I had several fairly humble roles at Norwich Union but somebody saw something, had faith in me and gave me more responsibility and ultimately I did an MBA, as I moved into management roles, that gave me a hunger to have a bigger impact on business.
"To do my job now, you need a very clear view of the future, you need to understand your markets, you need to have empathy with people who work with you and be pretty single-minded."
Andy lives in Norwich but has a crash pad in Southwold and believes in promoting the region. "I think businesses such as Adnams which are integral to the business of the economy face a number of challenges - how do we put the East of England on the map? I think the stars are aligning in terms of infrastructure, Greater Anglia are bringing in a lot of new trains, it's quicker to get here, but we need to get people to turn right when they come out of Stansted Airport instead of left and going to London."
Andy has just run the Woodbridge 10k and rides his bike in his spare time but for the most part just likes being in Southwold.
"Southwold is the most fantastic place in the summer but also in the winter when the wind, rain and sleet is howling. We are perched here on the edge of England right by the North Sea ... when you get a sea surge, a spring tide - there's never a dull moment."