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Athletic Brewing gains access to 5,000 UK venues

James Clay and Sons has signed an import and distribution deal to bring US alcohol-free beer from Athletic Brewing Company to British venues.

Athletic Brewing, founded by Bill Shufelt and John Walker in 2017, uses a brewing process that allows it to fully ferment its brews to be less than 0.5% ABV. For its first foray in the UK market, the American craft brewery then debuted its line of alcohol-free beers in Tesco stores and now has its sights set on becoming widely available in pubs, bars and restaurants across Britain.

Speaking to the drinks business, Athletic Brewing co-founder and CEO Bill Shufelt said: “Our international business is growing at well over 100% annually and has really started to hit an inflection in growth and awareness as we come up on one year on Tesco shelves.”

Athletic Brewing communications manager Chris Furnari also revealed that through the partnership with James Clay, “Athletic Brewing will have access to over 5,000 retailers throughout the UK”.

The distribution plan is to boost the brand’s presence in the on-trade across nine key UK cities – namely “Edinburgh, Glasgow, Newcastle, Leeds, Manchester, Bristol, Nottingham, Birmingham and London,” said James Clay and Sons communications and business development manager Joe Dick, who told db: “In terms of focus cities, it’s quite wide ranging as we have full direct distribution across the entirety of the UK.”

The main agenda for Athletic Brewing is to lead the way with its flagship offerings. Furnani explained that Athletic Brewing’s flagship brews “Run Wild IPA and Upside Dawn Golden are a primary focus for us in the UK” while “several other core, seasonal, and limited-time offerings” will also be available to buy via the brewery’s UK website.

Furnari added that there are plan afoot to roll out more beers from the range in due course. He revealed: “We expect to introduce additional styles in the UK in the coming months.”

Athletic makes over 50 different alcohol-free beers each year in a range of styles, including IPAs, goldens, and light and dark brews, among others. In the US, off-trade sales of Athletic brews are up over 92% over the last 52 weeks with Run Wild IPA and Upside Dawn Golden as the best-selling alcohol-free craft brews in America. Athletic also makes six of the top 10 best-selling alcohol-free craft brews in the US and has over 50% market share of the alcohol-free craft beer category, according to Nielsen. Analysts at the investment advisors Insider Monkey also outlined Athletic Brewing beers among its best low-alcohol beers in America.

Pub, bar snd restaurant operators will be able to order cans of Athletic Brewing’s beers from James Clay and Sons from November onwards.

Athletic Brewing additionally also owns and operates two large breweries in San Diego, California, and Milford, Connecticut. Its Connecticut facility, which opened in mid-2022 and spans 150,000 sq. ft., is understood to be the largest dedicated alcohol-free brewery in the world.

Last November, Keurig Dr Pepper (KDP) paid US$50 million for a minority stake in Athletic. The investment, provided KPD with an equity stake in Athletic Brewing that is comparable to its other lead investors such as TRB Advisors and Alliance Consumer Growth and also saw KDP join the brewery’s board of directors.

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