The finest malts

Relying on its ability to produce more specialist types of malt, Crisp Malt continues to support local and international brewers and distillers of any size

It felt like we had chosen the perfect time to catch up with Adrian Dyter – Managing Director of Crisp Malt – when he told us that mere weeks before our conversation, in August, the leading supplier of high-quality malts had had a record week of deliveries, all in one shift. To a large extent, the capability to act upon such high-volume orders has been acquired by Crisp through a series of investments Adrian told us about three years ago, when the company first appeared in the pages of FoodChain.

“We have upgraded our facilities both in England (in Great Ryburgh, Norfolk) and in Scotland (in Alloa) and the last time we spoke, the new equipment in Great Ryburgh was just being installed. It is now running very efficiently, which has enabled us to process customers’ orders more quickly,” Adrian says. “At the moment, we are also completing an investment in Scotland where we are putting packaging facilities in place that will allow us to package malt in 25-kilogramme bags, which we can then stack on pallets and deliver across the UK and overseas.”

The decision for the latter investment has been taken as a result of the growing demand by Crisp’s craft brewing and craft distilling customers for Scottish provenance malt. “The new facility will make us the only maltster who can grow barley in Scotland, malt it there, and then package it in the country. In addition, it will enable us to load and package peated malt in a discreet line. It is a product for the distilling industry that should never be mixed with any brewing malt and our ability to pack it in 25-kilogramme or even one-tonne bags and supply it to our customers will help us to expand our range,” Adrian discusses.

Following a slight dip in production among Scottish distilleries, the trend is now reversing and it is both large and small companies investing in new or expanding their existing sites. Without a doubt, this is excellent news for Crisp. Adrian comments: “Brands like Glenlivet and Glenfiddich have grown their large-scale distilling plants and that has added to the demand for our malts. At the same time, we are seeing a lot of craft distilleries popping up, with all of them looking for more interesting raw materials, in order to push the boundaries of flavour and style. Notably, these small operators emerge all over the world, so it is by no means just a Scottish phenomenon.

“There is a similar trend in craft brewing, which, alongside the very noticeable move away from mainstream beers and towards more international beverages, is changing the brewing market significantly. For us to adapt to these changes, we are trying to utilise our production assets in slightly different ways,” he continues, immediately backing his claim with an example. “On the one end of the market, we are working closely with Anheuser-Busch for their Budweiser brand by producing a special malt that suits their needs. On the other end, we provide our craft customers with a wide range of different malts and cooked cereals, so that they can produce the variety of beers that consumers are demanding.”

Unique products
To differentiate itself in the market, Crisp willingly shares its technical expertise, particularly with its customers on the craft brewing side, thus assisting them in the creation of more original drinks. “We have four qualified brewers within our team who are helping our clients to harness all the benefits of different malt styles,” Adrian states. “We see a lot of people coming into the sector with lots of energy and exciting ideas, but with little brewing experience, so we want to offer them this extra support, so they can use our malts to the best of their ability.

“Another initiative we have recently undertaken is called the ‘Small Batch Series’ which consists of releasing limited edition, unique batches of malt, with specific different features and characteristics to what is currently available to brewers and distillers,” he goes on. “The first batch of the series is the work we have done with a variety called Haná, which is the original Moravian barley that is used in the original Pilsners. We only had 14 tonnes of it and it is already sold out, but the idea is to enable our craft customers to produce something special and different from a short run of production.”

As Adrian pointed out earlier, the number of craft brewers and distillers around the world is ever increasing. Owing to this, Crisp has been working actively to enlarge its global network to ensure that its products are available in more countries. “When craft brewers want to brew an English IPA, they want to use authentic raw materials, so they are expecting us to supply them with 37English malts for the English-style beers they want to make,” Adrian observes.

Crisp’s intensified activities in the global market have been bolstered by the appointment of new distributors and a Distributor Relationship Manager who, at the time of speaking, was at the Southeast Asia Brew exhibition. “We are certainly looking to increase our overseas sales, even if our exports have been broadly flat over the past few years. We export approximately 15 per cent of the UK business’ production and the largest markets for us are Japan and the US. Furthermore, we are sending out Pilsner-type malts from our Hamburg maltings to customers all over the world.”

Smart re-branding
Together with the Hamburg business, Crisp runs another subsidiary based in the Polish city of Bydgoszcz. “The last three years have seen us integrate the two into our group and we have now come to a point where we have a common management structure across the entire company,” Adrian explains. “We have changed the names of the German and Polish businesses to Crisp Malt and have installed the IT systems that we use in the UK, slightly modifying them to reflect local conditions. This way, we have established a common platform in Western Europe that covers all of our operations in the region.”

Renaming Crisp’s overseas companies has been part of a wider rebrand undergone by the maltster, which included the design of a new logo and the change of the business’ own name from Crisp Malting Group to Crisp Malt. Adrian speaks about the need of a new look for the organisation: “We wanted to sharpen ourselves a bit, because, traditionally, malt supplying companies have not worried too much about their branding. We are hoping to become more attractive for our customers and the new logo, featuring the year when we were founded (1870), means that we have retained our connection with the past, whilst modernising our image. I believe that customers demand that they work with a trusted and long-standing provider of raw materials, hence the emphasis on our longevity as a business.”

Proudly displaying its enhanced identity, Crisp has a confident outlook for the future and Adrian is hopeful that the company will capitalise on several ongoing consumer trends. “It seems to us that people are going to drink less, but more quality beverages, which chimes well with our focus on serving customers that create more specialist products. Then, we are very happy to see that our malt is increasingly going into low or non-alcohol beers. It is a market sector that is resonating more and more with consumers and there is just as much malt in a non-alcohol beer as there is in a full-strength one.

“Finally, the food sector, too, is, slowly but surely, providing us with more opportunities. There has been a significant increase in the amount of malted oats that we produce, so we will continue to work around these trends and deliver the raw materials our clients need to succeed. In the long-term, we will try to grow the business further, either organically or by acquisitions, and we feel that we have got really good people and a solid supply base to achieve that.”