We were always a 'conscious business': Stone & Wood

Stone & Wood was built on a ‘conscious business model’ more than independence according to co-founder Jamie Cook.

Speaking to Brews News shortly after the announcement of the Fermentum Group’s purchase by Kirin-owned Lion, including Stone & Wood, Mr Cook said while some consumers value independence above a lot of other things, the business was always about more.

“Look, I think the key thing is independence is certainly something that people value and, you know, there are certain consumers that value that above a lot of other things,” he said.

“But we’ve always built our business on the conscious business model approach, where we look after all of our stakeholders.

“So, the people are a very important part of our business, the community, the environment, and we’ve always focused on that.

“Sure, ownership is one thing but at the end of the day, when founders get to a point in their journey and they decide that it’s time to hand the custodianship over, that’s a decision that the founders have to make from time to time,” Mr Cook said.

Asked if the consumers who invested in the Stone & Wood story might feel cynical about the loss of independence, Mr Cook said it’s not just about that.

“It’s about other things that we built our business on, that conscious business model of truly engaging our consumers and our community, providing support for the community,” he said.

“So things like establishing the Ingrained Foundation, looking after the environment through some of the stuff we do locally here, they’re all things that our consumers also buy into and they will continue to buy into.

“And that’s why, as part of this process we went through, we wanted to find a custodian that would continue those obligations and commitments to the community, and Lion stepped up to the plate and provided that.

“So, it’s a benefit to those consumers who buy into our brand on those things and those values, that are true to what the brand’s about will continue.”

“At the end of the day when founders decide that they want to pass the custodianship on, that reaches a point in their own journey, and we do that. And we’ve found a great partner and custodian in Lion that lives the same values that we do.”

Mr Cook’s comments can be contrasted with his comments on other brewery sales, including the 2017 purchase of Pirate Life by CUB. In 2017 he noted, amongst other things, that it is a bitter pill for drinkers to swallow when the companies that sell then recite from the same script about how nothing will change under multinational ownership. His previous comments can be read in full here.

Lion Managing Director, James Brindley, said it was an “honour and a privelege’ to be chosen as Stone & Wood’s custodian.

“I’ve admired it from afar for a decade and, you know, in the process we had to present back about why we were going to be good custodians,” he said.

“And, you know, that was a big challenge for us, because we wanted to do a good job and preserve the legacy, and we believe in the same things, places and people.

“That’s why there are a few attributes other than the financial aspect about investing in a brewery, keeping all the people employed and the charitable contributions to the Ingrained Foundation and Big Scrub Landcare.”

“We’ve known each other a few years but I think it’s the shared values and beliefs that you’ve gotta do good if you’re going to have a business.”

Co-founder Ross Jurisich said the founders had committed to staying on in an advisory role for 12-months to aid with the transition.

“Jamie’s the worst retired person in retirement,” he said. “And Brad is in our Forest For The Trees brewery every bloody day.”

“The founding families are definitely at different stages of their life. I’m the same age now as what Jamie was when we started Stone & Wood, so we’re just at different stages and the opportunity and the timing were right.”

Jurisich describe the reaction from staff as ‘mixed’.

“Nearly 80% are co-owners in the business and when we set up the Employee Share Scheme way back when, we wanted to ensure that the people in the business got to reap the reward of the growth that they were building over time,” he said.

“And when we set that up, you know, not a lot of businesses did that type of thing but we’re glad that we did and there’s a lot of grateful people in our business through that Employee Share Scheme and the proceeds of it.”

With Lion having squarely targeted Stone & Wood with the recent launch of its own Pacific Ale under the Little Creatures brand, James Brindley laughed off suggestions that it might be Lion’s shortest ever product launch.

“Oh, it’s a big market out there and a big world so… you know, maybe, you can have a couple of Pacific Ales,” he laughed.

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