Fall 2014
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Jabian Conversations

The beer industry has recently experienced a glut of new products from apple and lime flavored beers to beers with unique cans and packaging. But one man believes the best part about a beer should be the beer itself. And when that man is Billy Busch, whose family founded that other little brewery in St. Louis nearly 165 years ago, you should probably believe it, too. Mr. Busch shared with us how you don’t need fancy flavors or crazy cans to make an exceptional beer, what analytics can tell you about your customers, and why sometimes just making friends is the best way to run the business.
Billy Busch
William K. Busch Brewing Co.

Other large brewers famously use highly complex analytics to segment markets, analyze sentiment, and perform research on all marketing efforts to increase sales. How does Kräftig approach analytics, and what’s the future of beer marketing for Kräftig?

We certainly use analytics to review sales performance and opportunities with all of our retail accounts. Basically, we work with retailers with the goal of adding value to their beer category through increased volume and profitability. From a volume standpoint, we believe that the flavor of Kräftig lager and light attracts people to the premium category and provides craft drinkers with the perfect “session beer.” From a profitability standpoint, we price our beers to be competitive with the leading premium-priced players (Bud, Miller, and Coors), as well as focus on delivering margin to our retailer customers. We don’t believe that the retailer should sacrifice their profitability to sell premium beer.

Kräftig is brewed using only four ingredients, in accordance with Reinheitsgebot. Why did you decide to adhere to this brewing rule rather than pursue more innovative flavors or styles?

We decided to brew our beers in accordance with Reinheitsgebot because it delivers a stronger flavor due to the absence of adjuncts or fillers, like rice or corn. All other domestic, premium beers use these fillers. But that’s only part of the story. Our ingredients are also the finest found anywhere: German Hallertau hops, North American barley, and our own proprietary yeast. So it’s not only a 500-year-old brewing process, it’s also superior ingredients that make Kräftig light and lager such great tasting beers.

Currently Kräftig is available in limited geographies. How do you plan for growth, and how do you make sure you aren’t growing too quickly?

We spend a great deal of time considering specific geographies for growth. Consumer demographics, taste, and price preferences, as well as the relative strength of beer distributors are just some of the factors we consider. It’s also important that our sales and marketing resources can fully support a given geography, to ensure the brand’s success.

Why do people come to work at William K. Busch Brewing Company every day?

Our employees have a tremendous passion for the beer business. Some of them come from larger brewing companies, others from regional distributors and craft breweries. The common thread in all of our employees is a love for the beer business and a sincere desire to put our company and brands on the map. It’s wonderful to see the competitive spirit, creativity, and passion on a daily basis. We may be a small company competing against multi-national players, but our people, working with our distributors, ensure that Kräftig lager and light are well-positioned in the marketplace every day.

There are hundreds of craft beers in the U.S., but Kräftig isn’t a craft beer. How do you use marketing to separate yourself from perceptions?

It’s mainly a function of positioning Kräftig lager and light as true, domestic premium beers. Our messaging, selling strategies, pricing, and positioning in the retail market focus on the fact that we are a premium-priced, lager beer. The size of our company and the many awards we’ve won (14 medals in 2 ½ years), may give some people the impression that we’re a craft beer. Even the name of our brand, Kräftig (pronounced “Kref-tig”), may lead people to make certain conclusions. The fact is, Kräftig is the German word for “strength,” which corresponds to our stronger flavor. As for the medals, well, what can I say? We brew great tasting, award-winning beers and sell them at a great price!

What’s the best advice you’ve ever been given?

Focus on quality in everything you do. My father, Gussie Busch, was fanatical about the quality of beer. He also coined the phrase, “Making Friends Is Our Business.” I try to run the William K. Busch Brewing Co. in the same manner.

What’s the worst advice you’ve ever been given?

That’s a tough question. I’m always getting lots of advice from people on types of beers that we should brew or various avenues for marketing our products. While I certainly appreciate the input, some of the ideas can be incredibly interesting, to say the least.

In 10 years, where do you hope to see Kräftig beer in the market?

We’re working to make Kräftig brands available in a wider geography. Perhaps a large portion of the Midwest. It’s also my goal to build a brewery in the St. Louis area, thereby continuing my family’s legacy of brewing beer in our hometown. My ultimate objective is making Kräftig a national beer brand and introducing people across the country to our award-winning beers.

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