Lion reflects on Tap King failure; Creatures going global

Tap King was discontinued in 2016

Little Creatures is poised to open brewpubs in Singapore, London and San Francisco, according to global markets boss Matt Tapper, who has also opened up about his experience working on the Tap King project.

Though it was discontinued in early 2016, the consumer insights behind the Tap King home draught beer dispenser remain sound, Tapper told the Institute of Brewing and Distilling (IBD) Asia Pacific Section Convention in Wellington.

“We had this insight, which still remains true today, that there’s a real opportunity or desire especially amongst guys, to consume quality draught beer at home,” he said.

“We also knew and we still know that about 80 per cent of beer consumption is in the home and we knew our category or the size of the beer market was under pressure and it wasn’t growing the way we wanted.”

Tapper said Tap King had gotten off to a flying start when it was launched with a high profile television campaign featuring singer Lionel Ritchie.

“Pretty quickly everyone in Australia knew about this proposition and everyone was scrambling to buy one,” he said.

“We launched everywhere, we threw out all this advertising and it started selling really, really well and we were struggling to keep up… and then things started to unravel.”

Dispenser issues
Tapper said Tap King had not quite delivered on the “incredible expectation” it had created among beer drinkers.

“At the end of the day, we didn’t end up consistently – at the right price point, in terms of value – being able to deliver a great draught experience at home,” he said.

“We did it if the refill was refrigerated for nine or ten hours in advance so the beer wouldn’t foam, so we did it occasionally, but we didn’t do it consistently.

“It cost us a fair bit, but we didn’t bet the farm… It’s taken me about three or four years to have this conversation again because it was quite a painful experience.

“One of the things I think we’re getting better at is talking about failure,” Tapper said.

Little Creatures abroad
Tapper said Little Creatures’ Hong Kong venue had opened up many new opportunities for the brand beyond simply engaging with consumers.

“We also had retailers walk through those doors and we also had business people from China and different parts of Asia walk through those doors; a buyer, for example, from Canada, distributors from the US, owners of pubs in the UK,” he said.

Little Creatures Kennedy Town head brewer Tom Champion

Little Creatures Kennedy Town head brewer Tom Champion

He said this had emboldened Lion to expand the brand beyond venues already announced for mainland China, with leases signed on sites in San Francisco and London and the imminent opening of a venue in Singapore.

Little Creatures beers are already sold in the US through Lion’s distribution network and they were made available at 50 pubs in London on Australia Day.

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