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While its larger U.K. competitors, such as Bass and Whitbread, are selling off their brewery operations to concentrate on managing the pub and hotel chains, leading regional brewer Fuller Smith & Turner P.L.C. happily juggles both sides of the British beer industry. Fuller Smith & Turner operates one of the United Kingdom's oldest brewery sites, the Griffon brewery on Chiswick Lane. The company's Fuller's Beer Company subsidiary produces a strong variety of ales, porters, and especially bitters, including the company's flagship London Pride and ESB (Extra Special Bitter) brands. Newer products include Organic Honey Dew, a beer made from organically grown ingredients, launched in 2000, and London Porter, initially an export-only beer, which was introduced to the U.K. market in the same year. Other brands include Chiswick Bitter, Red Fox, Jack Frost, and 1845. The company's total production neared 240,000 barrels in the company's 2000 fiscal year, with the company's own inns and pubs accounting for nearly 40 percent of sales. That business, operated under the Fuller's Inns subsidiary, is comprised of the company's more than 200 pubs and hotels, including more than 100 company-managed pubs, and a growing number of bars (which are exempt from the traditional opening-time restrictions placed on British pubs). The company's pubs operate under several brand concepts, including the Ale & Pie concept--each pub-restaurant features its own signature pie--and the Broadwalks bar-disco concept. The company has also seen strong success with the 1998 launch of its Fine Line concept, designed to appeal to the emerging 20-something segment and especially the rising number of affluent as well as female customers. The company also operates a string of hotels, including the mid-priced English Inn hotel brand. In all the Fuller's Inns operations accounted for nearly £85 million of the company's £142 million in 2000 sales. A third Fuller Smith & Turner subsidiary, Fuller's Wines, which operated a chain of 60 retail wine and spirits stores, was sold off to the Unwins chain in 2000. Traded on the London Stock Exchange, Fuller Smith & Turner continues to be controlled by the families behind the founding partnership, including Anthony Fuller, chairman, who holds some 14 percent of the company's stock, J.F. Russell-Smith, serving as president of the board of directors, and Michael Turner, who holds the company's managing director position.
Partnership in the 19th Century
Fuller Smith & Turner's Griffin brewery is the oldest brewery operating in London and one of the oldest brewery sites in the United Kingdom--the brewery dates back to the mid-1700s. The 'modern era' of the Chiswick Lane site started when John Fuller took over the brewery's operation in 1829. Fuller's son John Bird Fuller then joined with partners Henry Smith and John Turner in 1845 to form the Fuller Smith & Turner partnership in order to exploit the brewery's production, and a number of brewery-owned pubs and inns.
As the next generation took over in the 1870s, with George Pargiter Fuller inheriting his father's share of the company, Fuller's had already established a reputation for its beers in its southern England area. The company's slogan 'Fuller's Beers of Honest Repute' became a catchword of sorts in the 1890s, as the company began marketing itself--including using hot air balloons. In 1892, Fuller Smith & Turner took out a trademark on the Griffin Brewery's name, and incorporated a griffon into the company's logo.
The company expanded into new directions as the century reached an end. In 1894 Fuller Smith & Turner inaugurated the Drayton Court Hotel. That same year, the company opened its first off-license store, that is, a retail store devoted to sales of wine, spirits, and beer. While Fuller's remained a relatively small brewer, it began to achieve recognition at the beginning of the new century, and growing sales encouraged Fuller Smith & Turner to acquire a new brewery, the Beehive, in Brentford, in 1909. By then, the company had begun investing in a new fleet of steam-driven vehicles for transporting its beers, joining the brewery's stable of Shire horse-drawn wagons.
Fuller Smith & Turner exchanged its partnership status for that of a private limited corporation in 1929. During the 1930s, the company phased out its horse-drawn deliveries. The Shire horses, however, were to reappear in front of Fuller's carts in the late 1980s, bringing the company's products to special events and other company-sponsored activities. Meanwhile, the company built up its fleet of steam-driven trucks during the 1930s, which themselves began to be replaced by diesel engine trucks after World War II.
Remaining a Regional Independent for the 21st Century
In the 1950s, Fuller Smith & Turner branched out again, opening a new subsidiary, the Griffin Catering Company. While that subsidiary did not survive the end of the 20th century, restaurant service remained a fixture in many of the company's pubs and hotels. Fuller Smith & Turner was also finding success on more familiar territory. The award of the first place medal by the Brewers Exhibition of 1959 to the company's London Pride bitters established that brand as one of the U.K.'s favorite regional brews. London Pride became the company's flagship brand, generating the highest volume of sales. The following year, in 1960, Fuller Smith & Turner extended its lodgings portfolio with the opening of the Master Robert Motel.
The rising prominence of national and international brewers on the English beer scene prompted Fuller Smith & Turner to join in the formation of the CAMRA association. This 'Campaign for Real Ale' encouraged public recognition of ale conditioned in traditional casks, such as Fuller Smith & Turner's ales, as opposed to the more industrial methods being put into use by the industry's growing giants. The CAMRA campaign helped spark growing consumer demand for the smaller, more traditionally brewed beers, such as those produced by Fuller Smith & Turner. Maintaining its commitment to its traditions, Fuller Smith & Turner nonetheless launched a program to modernize and expand its production facilities. Started in 1975, the renovation was completed at the end of the decade and the company inaugurated its new brewery facility in 1981.
By then, the company's beer labels were achieving greater peer recognition. The company's ESB (Extra Special Bitter) brand won the CAMRA Beer of the Year award in 1978--a distinction the brand achieved again in 1981 and 1985. London Pride took its turn as well, winning the CAMRA award in 1979. The company capped the decade with a new Beer of the Year, launching the Chiswick Bitter brand. In the mid-1990s, Fuller Smith & Turner marked its 150th anniversary with the launch of a new brand, the bottled conditioned ale 1845.
By then, the British brewing industry was feeling the full effects of the 1989 Beer Orders--legislation that placed into effect a cap on the number of pubs a single brewer was entitled to own. This legislation caused a long industry shakeout, as brewer's longtime dominant hold on the British pub scene began to slip. With a limit of just 2,000 pubs per brewer, large numbers of pub freeholds came onto the market. At the same time, a number of brewers began looking to exit their brewery operations in favor of refocusing themselves as pub and hotel operators. Such was the case with two of the United Kingdom's top brewers, Bass and Whitbread, both of which sold off their brewery operations to Belgium giant Interbrew at the turn of the century. Meanwhile, the regional brewing segment began to experience rising pressure to consolidate, in part in order to achieve greater economies of scale, in part in order to boost their share values. Fuller Smith & Turner, which by then counted as one of the largest of the independent regional brewers, was able to preserve its independence thanks to the continued control of the founding families of more than 60 percent of the company's stock.
Fuller Smith & Turner instead moved to heighten the brand awareness of its flagship London Pride brand, doubling its advertising spending to more than £1 million per year, and launching its first national television advertisement campaign. The success of this campaign, with its slogan, 'Whatever You Do, Take Pride,' helped boost the company's production of that brand to more than 100,000 barrels in 1997. Total production topped 150,000 barrels the following year, aided by the back-to-back triumphs of the ESP brand as champion bitter at the World Beer Championships in Chicago in 1998 and 1999. The company was also making headway with its hotel concept, English Inn, which began to eclipse its other hotel offerings--the company Master Robert Motel was sold off in 2000.
Meanwhile, the company continued to launch new brand concepts. A new branded ale, Red Fox, which debuted in 1997, was joined by the launch of an organic beer, made with organically grown ingredients, called Organic Honey Dew, in 2000. The company was also seeing success with the opening of a new brand name concept for a chain of bars--which were exempt from the traditionally limited opening times of the United Kingdom's pubs--called the Fine Line. Designed to appeal to the young, affluent, and female markets in London, the Fine Line chain was quickly crowned with success, and won the award for Best Newcomer at the 1999 Retailer of the Year awards.
In 2000, Fuller Smith & Turner moved to refocus its operations around the dual core of its Fuller's Inns division--which included its pub, bar, and hotel operations--and its Fuller Brewing Company division. The company then moved to dispose of its Fuller's Wine chain, which by then had grown to a network of 60 retail stores. That operation was sold to rapidly growing Unwins in 2000 for £7.5 million. The sale added to the company's war chest as it began to seek further acquisitions. At the end of 2000, the company acknowledged its interest in picking up as many as 70 pubs from the Whitbread group as that company, after its acquisition by Interbrew, put up its 3,000-strong pub empire for sale at the end of the 20th century. At the same time, the company continued to pursue the expansion of its hotel holdings, with plans to open three new English Inn hotels in Kingston, Surry, Bristol, and London by mid-year 2001.
Principal Subsidiaries: Fuller's Inns; The Fuller's Beer Company.
Principal Competitors: Ann Street Group Limited; Bass PLC; Diageo Plc.; Greene King plc; Heineken N.V.; The Nomura Securities Co., Ltd.; Punch Taverns Group Ltd.; Scottish & Newcastle plc; Young & Co.'s Brewery, P.L.C.