Specialty beer brewer Moa has wooed highly-regarded new investors and is hunting dramatic international growth, particularly in the United States and Europe.

The Marlborough brewery was started in 2003 by winemaker turned brewer Josh Scott (29) and cracked the American market two year later.

It has now secured two new cornerstone investors – The Business Bakery, jointly owned by 42 Below founder Geoff Ross, Grant Baker and Stephen Sinclair, and Pioneer Capital Partners – and next year hopes to land a lucrative deal for national distribution in US organic chain Whole Foods.

The Business Bakery has taken a 47% stake in the company, Pioneer holds 24% and the remaining 29% remains with Scott and his parents Allan and Catherine of Allan Scott Wines.

A new management team, based in Auckland, includes national sales manager Gareth Hughes (ex-42 Below), chief financial officer Kelvin Ovington (also ex-42 Below) and marketing manager Sunil Unka, who was brand and marketing manager for Air New Zealand`s grabaseat.

The new investment came about after Scott heard Geoff Ross and the Bakery were investigating the brewing industry so contacted them direct. Impressed with the approach, the product and Scott himself, Ross jumped on board, alongside Pioneer Capital.

Says Ross: “Most mainstream beers are all the same and, to be honest, I was getting bored with them. Josh has brought a winemaking sensibility to beer – creating different taste profiles for different occasions.

“We want to build a following and appreciation for a super premium beer. We created a new segment for vodka and upped the ante with cocktail making. We want to do that with beer and Moa is the perfect opportunity, both here and internationally.”

Craig Styris from Pioneer Capital, which invests in New Zealand businesses focused on growth in large international markets, says: “We became a partner in Moa because of the people involved and the market opportunity – the two most important elements in any investment we make.

“We had observed a growing sophistication in a significant section of the beer drinking population worldwide and have a very high regard for The Bakery`s investing and operating capabilities. They shared our view of the potential in the beer market and when the Moa opportunity arose, we quickly agreed this was `the one`.”

Styris added: “Josh and his family at Allan Scott Wines have developed a superior product using traditional techniques, are capable entrepreneurs in their own right and are open to working with partners with additional capital and expertise to build a super-premium international beer brand.”

Scott applies winemaking techniques to his handcrafted beers, including bottle fermentation (like champagne) and barrel ageing. And, like champagne, Moa comes in bigger bottles than traditional beers, ranging from 375ml to 1.5L magnums to a 3L jeroboam for extra-special occasions.

Nine premium Moa beers – all award-winning – are available, including a strong hoppy American style Pale Ale to Blanc Evolution with coriander to the complex Belgian style Tripel St Josephs.

Scott says the craft beer market in New Zealand is about 8% of the total but predicts that will continue to grow to as high as 25% in the next five years. In America, craft beer currently occupies about 15% of the total beer market and Moa is now the largest NZ beer exporter to the US.

“We started exporting to California in 2005 and can now be found across America in Wisconsin, New Jersey, New York and Massachusetts. The Whole Foods organic chain is stocking Moa in their home state of Georgia and we`re aiming to secure national distribution by mid-2011” says Scott.

Moa can also be found in Vietnam, China, Hong Kong, Canada, Australia and, very shortly, in France, Germany and Japan.

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