American owner of Highlands craft brewer Wooha aims to push Scottish beer in her home US marketHeat Profit
THE American owner of a Scottish craft brewery has set a simple but bold target of selling “an awful lot of beer” in her home country after receiving £700,000 in funding.
Heather McDonald established WooHa Brewing Company in Nairn in 2015, and began exporting to the US this year.
The funding, which included £175,000 from HSBC and £300,000 from private equity Investors – more than half of whom come from the US, has already paid for a new brewery on a 6.2 acre farm in Kinloss in Moray.
Ms McDonald arrived in Scotland in 1996 to study and subsequently saw an opportunity to use her skills and knowledge of the Market to create a modern craft beer product.
She said: “We have seen an increased demand from the American Market for our Scottish beer, so much so that we forecast that next year, 80 per cent of our business will be from exports.”
Tennessee was first state to sell WooHa’s bottle conditioned beers with imports being handled by Tennessee-based Foreign Beer Imports Inc.
The company has subsequently pushed into Kentucky, Texas, Alabama, Georgia and Florida, and will launch in November in Ms McDonald’s home city of Washington DC.
Craft beer hotspots Los Angeles and San Diego are also covered by the brewery.
“We’re working towards growing a lot of depth in the south east corner,” said Ms McDonald. “We’re in the new site and we’ve already sent a container of beer to the States which was made at the new site,” she said.
Brewed and bottled on site, WooHa’s four core beers – IPA, Porter, Lager and Wheat – are exported in six-packs for the American Market.
Capacity is 550,000 litres but Ms McDonald said this would increase to 2.5 million litres by 2019.
She said the business had performed well in the UK this year, where it is sold by the likes of Asda and Morrisons. “The US is exceeding our expectations, the beer has been very well received,” she said. “We’re getting interest from chain outlets and people love beer that is brewed in Scotland. Most Americans think they’re part Scottish anyway.”
Susan Rowand, HSBC head of business banking in Scotland, added: “We’re seeing an increase in demand for Scottish food and drink products abroad and the USA, in particular, offers a huge opportunity.”