Monteith's craft beers and ciders are making a splash overseas with a 14 per cent increase in export sales predicted for the 2014 year, says owner DB Breweries.
In a market where there is heavy competition domestically and even more so internationally, DB managing director Andy Routley says it's great to have started to crack the overseas market.
"It's difficult to grow beer and cider brands in competitive markets," Routley says.
"We're very delighted that Monteith's is growing so well and we've been able to find that clever mix between building a brand in its home market, New Zealand, and exporting its beers and ciders internationally as well."
DB predicts the equivalent of 15 million bottles, or five million litres of Monteith's beer and cider, will leave New Zealand for overseas this year, however, this is still relatively small in comparison with New Zealand's well-established wine export industry and the overall beer market.
Wine exports exceeded $1.3 billion annually for the first time in March and the total volume of beer available for consumption was 285.8 million litres in the year ended September 2013, according to Statistics NZ.
DB Breweries are fully owned by Dutch company Heineken, after it bought DB's former parent company Asia Pacific Breweries in 2012.
Monteith's main export market is Australia but Routley says the association with Heineken has helped to further expand the brand, with distribution channels opening up in Europe.
"This year, the step change for us is being able to leverage Heineken and the relationships and the reach that has, because it's enabling Monteith's to reach a new level in terms of its export potential," Routley says.
DB have a 35 per cent share of the beer market and a 44 per cent share of the cider market in New Zealand, with Monteith's currently the top-selling craft brand.
Monteith's success internationally has seen it lift into the top 10 beers, and the top five ciders in Australia.
Routley attributes the success to having a great product but he also says the view of New Zealand internationally has helped, something competitor Lion New Zealand agrees with.
"From our consumer research in the UK and the US, the two big things which came up were that New Zealand is great because of the purity of its ingredients and also because people view New Zealand as an adventure capital of the world, and that rubs off on to our products a bit," says Lion international and craft director Danny Phillips.
According to Phillips, craft beer was seen in the industry as having huge potential overseas, with a number of Kiwi craft breweries doing well globally.
"Really competitive big global brands make it hard for exports, but like DB and other craft brewers we see the opportunity to export New Zealand craft as really significant," Phillips says.
"From some of the smaller guys like Epic and Yeastie Boys, we're getting some nice strong glimpses of success around the globe which suggest there's a really strong market there."
This has also been backed up by successes from the likes of Moa, which listed on the NZX in November 2012 and is going for resource consent to build a bigger brewery to handle increased demand.
Moa chief executive Geoff Ross says the higher cost for quality craft beer means exports are far more viable than is the case with other beers, where freight components result in lower margins.
"Margins are high with wine and spirits in particular, but now for the first time, because craft beer is at the higher end, there should be enough of a margin to allow it to be freighted around the world as a viable export proposition," Ross says.
New Zealand sales in the cider category have been increasing yearly by around 30 per cent — growth that Routley says is driving more opportunities in the export sector.
Despite the success, Routley is quick to note that DB won't be relaxing any time soon.
"We're delighted with the success of the [Monteith's] brand but there's no complacency.
"This is a very competitive category and we know consumers have a choice, so our job is to ensure we continually develop something consumers want to drink."
Monteith's beer and cider exports will make up 30 per cent of the total Monteith's volume this year.
• Monteith's started out as Phoenix Brewery in 1868, before merging with a group of smaller breweries to become Westland Breweries.
• In 1969 the company was purchased by DB Breweries before changing to what it is now known as, Monteith's Brewing Co, in 1990.
• The Monteith's brewery in Greymouth underwent an extensive redevelopment in 2012 and is now a well-known tourist destination with close to 40,000 visitors a year.