Saturday, July 12, 2014

Samuel Adams Poised for Growth: Boston Beer Company a Craft Beer Brewer with Big Ambitions

Samuel Adams Boston Lager was the first brand introduced by the Boston Beer Company. Founded in 1984 by Jim Koch, the company had grown substantially since then. Koch named the company's flagship beer after American patriot Samuel Adams, who fought for years against the British Crown and played a role in the Boston Tea Party. Fittingly, the Boston Beer Company is now the largest American owned brewer, inheriting the crown after Anheuser-Busch was taken over by European conglomerate InBev.

While the Harvard educated Koch was always a gifted businessman, several doses of luck helped the brand to gain early recognition. Koch quit his job as a consultant and focused on reviving an old family beer recipe. With a new name that evoked America's colonial past and a bit of clever marketing, Sam Adams Boston Lager was born. Success came quickly in 1985, as Samuel Adams Boston Lager was named "Best Beer in America" out of 93 competitors at the Great American Beer Festival in Denver, Colorado.

Since its founding, Koch and the Boston Beer Company have expanded the Samuel Adams line to include 16 beers such as Sam Adams Light, Boston Ale, and Pale Ale. Boston Beer also brews nine seasonal beers, with Samuel Adams Winter Lager first making its debut in 1989. Other popular favorites include Summer Ale and OctoberFest.

In 1995, Boston Beer Company became a publicly traded company, listing on the New York Stock Exchange under the ticker symbol SAM. Once again, the timing was exceptional as more expensive craft beers were booming in popularity at the expense of cheaper choices like Miller and Budweiser. The Boston Beer Company continues to aggressively reinvest in its business, developing new brands and recently bringing brew operations in-house instead of contracting out beer production. Beer has traditionally been extraordinarily resilient in times of economic distress. Considered a "sin stock" along with its tobacco, defense and gambling brethren, the alcoholic beverage sector is known for its stability when the stock market gets turbulent.

From 2005 to 2009, SAM has increased revenue from $238.3 million to $415.1 million. Financial reports from SAM indicate a strong 2010 as craft brewers continue to take market share from more established industry players. According to the Brewers Association, volume for craft brews rose 9% while overall beer volume dropped 2.7% in the first half of 2010. Samuel Adams is by far the largest craft brewer, accounting for a whopping 21.5% of the craft market. As of 2010, the company employed 780 people and boasted 15,557 stockholders.

According to Standard & Poor's, "Products are distributed locally through a network of about 400 wholesalers and 265 sales people, who then sell to retailers such as pubs, restaurants, grocery chains, package stores, stadiums, and other retail outlets." While the company lacks "primary brand status" with distributors, analysts suggest that Samuel Adams beers remain attractive to wholesalers because of their premium pricing.

While SAM still is still considered a growth stock and does not pay a dividend, there is considerable debate on how long a company can legitimately call itself a craft brewer. While the term "craft brewer" has traditionally referred to production of 2 million barrels or less, it's clear that Boston Beer will inevitably exceed that amount. Founder Jim Koch argues that it's all in the process and ingredients, and amount of beer brewed is irrelevant. In 2009, Koch said that Samuel Adams had a market share of .5%, which leaves lots of room for growth.

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