Forked River Brewing Co.: Craft Beer Entrepreneurship in an Evolving Industry
(10 pages of text)
On January 4, 2016, the co-founders of Forked River Brewing Company (Forked River), a small brewery in London, Ontario, revisited the company’s original business plan from 2012. Over the course of only four years, the founders went from home brewing enthusiasts to owners of a striving, award-winning craft brewery. Forked River beers were now offered in pubs, restaurants, and retail stores across the province of Ontario. In the past year alone, Forked River had expanded its production capacity by 50 per cent, hired an additional full-time brewmaster, and added a retail outlet to the brewing facility. However, business had recently become more complicated due to changes to Ontario retail liquor laws, increasing non-brewing administrative work, and looming decisions about the product portfolio and distribution strategy. Now, the three founders wondered whether Forked River was still on the right track or if a new strategic plan was needed to ensure its long-term success in the fast-changing craft beer industry.
After completion of the case, students will be able to do the following:
- Examine how an evolving industry creates both strategic opportunities and threats.
- Learn about the challenges of operating in a mature industry.
- Discuss what opportunities are available to niche players within such an industry, which is a very profitable specialization trend.
- Contrast the common perception that in mature industries, only the big players survive and entry barriers become increasingly higher.
- Apply popular strategy concepts: a political, economic, social, and technological (PEST) analysis; a strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats (SWOT) analysis; Porter’s “five forces” analysis, and differentiation versus low costs.
Canada, Small, 2016
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