What herbs and spices did Colonel Sanders use to create KFC? Will we ever learn the secret recipe of Coca-Cola? How did Barr develop the unmistakeable flavour behind Irn-Bru?
Some of the recipes developed by the world’s biggest corporations (e.g. Coca-Cola and KFC), and the intellectual property protecting them, are amongst the most heavily guarded and valuable assets in the food and drink industry. It is this mystery, and the inability of the public to recreate these recipes, that draws consumers in and ensures continual customer loyalty. It is without a doubt that for these companies, the importance and value in protecting the IP in these recipes is essential to their continued success.
So why in 2016 did one of the most successful brewers in the UK decide to release the intellectual property behind each and every single beer that they have brewed on an annual basis?
We are of course talking about BrewDog.
BrewDog have released the DIY DOG, a comprehensive list of all of their recipes for every single BrewDog beer that they’ve ever made. As CEO and Co-Founder, James Watt, recently suggested, “This is the information that normal companies would guard with their lives.” It is, quite simply, as if the keys to the BrewDog kingdom are being handed over.
BrewDog was founded in 2007 by James Watt and Martin Dickie, two beer fanatics and home brewers who, like many other beer drinkers, had become bored of the beers and ales brewed by large corporations. Their mission was to make people as passionate about craft beer as they were.
In 2009, BrewDog launched Equity for Punks. This offered the opportunity for the average, craft beer loving individual to purchase shares in BrewDog online. BrewDog became not just a brewery, but a brewery for the people, owned by the people, and challenged the industrial large scale brewers by developing craft ales for a new generation of ale drinkers. As BrewDog grew, so did the Equity for Punks initiative, ensuring that BrewDog was owned by those shareholders who truly had great beer at the forefront of their investment.
It is clear that BrewDog values its consumers beyond all else and that they are the driving force behind BrewDog’s ethos and culture, which is ingrained in everything that the company does, from their Equity for Punks scheme to the donation of 20% of their profits to charity every year. However, this is most evident in the release of DIY DOG in 2016. DIY DOG contains the detailed recipes to every BrewDog beer and is updated on a yearly basis. This allows those shareholders and beer lovers, who have invested not only in the company but also in their ethos, to recreate their favourite craft ales at home. BrewDog has its roots firmly in home brewing and those roots have not been forgotten.
Most companies rely on their secret recipes to keep customers coming back for more. The allure of not being able to obtain that same flavour anywhere else keeps demand for their products high. However, for BrewDog, without their customers and crowdfunding investors there would no BrewDog. The recipes are seen as the property of all those who truly love BrewDog’s craft beers. BrewDog have positioned themselves as a company that places an inclusive culture at the heart of the business.
Only time will tell if giving away their valuable intellectual property will negatively affect BrewDog, but until then, The Punk Ale For All ethos continues.