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The two brothers winning awards with mead made for the modern day

By William Dodds

- Last updated on GMT

Hive Mind Mead won the Golden Fork Award for Wales in 2023
Hive Mind Mead won the Golden Fork Award for Wales in 2023

Related tags Innovation

Food Manufacture speaks to the founders of Welsh drinks producer Hive Mind Mead & Brew Co about the growing popularity of their unique product.

TasteWales / BlasCymru, the bi-annual international food and drink trade show operated by the Welsh Government, provides a great opportunity to discover more about food and drink businesses of all sizes.

The most recent iteration of the event, held in Newport from 25 to 26 October 2023, featured more than 100 manufacturers from across Wales that were showcasing their products to attendees from around the world.​ During that time, Food Manufacture had the chance to speak with representatives for a wide variety of companies with fascinating origins, including the founders of Hive Mind Mead & Brew Co, brothers Kit and Matt Newell.

First established in 2018, Hive Mind Mead initially operated as Wye Valley Meadery before rebranding in an attempt to broaden its appeal. The brothers grew up in the Wye Valley and spent time working in brewing while at university, but they never imagined how their careers would take a turn following the creation of their own business.

From a passion to a business

The initial inspiration for the business owes itself to Matt’s love for beekeeping which prompted the duo to think about the possible “applications for honey as a raw material​”. They quickly agreed that selling jarred honey was not necessarily going to be a viable business and instead looked to the US where the sale of mead was becoming increasingly popular.

Like wine or beer, mead is made through fermentation but had fallen somewhat out of favour in the UK, more often associated with medieval history rather than modern day grocery stores. However, with a determination fuelled by the success of similar products in America and a passion for home-brewing, they began experimenting with honey and created a “beer-strength style mead​”.

We treated it like a beer every step of the way, bottled it and then wanted to see what people thought of it​,” Kit Newell explained.

This first venture earned them a two-star accreditation at the Great Taste Awards and the validation prompted the siblings to quit their jobs and make it their full-time occupations.

We never consciously thought about starting a brewery, but it just sort of happened as we looked at scaling up​,” said Matt.

Growth happened organically and quickly and this allowed them to keep reinvesting in the business. Initially they had rented out the corner of a larger brewery but by 2020 they were in a position to take over the building entirely. A year later, they moved into their very own premises in Caldicot.

The brewery is 3,000 square feet, which sounds a lot at first but when you put all the tanks and chillers in place that space begins to disappear​,” explained Kit.

The brewery also has a tap room and event space on site, which the brothers explained is a key part of their strategy to retain a strong direct-to-consumer offering. Because it scaled up during Covid, Hive Mind Mead is not currently available on-trade, but around a third of its products are sold direct-to-consumer online or at festivals, another third is sold through distributors and the final third is sold directly to retailers.

This is a nice even split which reduces some of the risks and prevents us becoming overly reliant on one channel​,” added Kit.

Industry recognition

Now producing a range of meads at varying alcohol by volume (ABV) levels, the brothers’ Traditional Mead was presented with the Golden Fork Award for Wales at the 2023 Great Taste Awards, also achieving its three-star accreditation. Great Taste is one of the world’s largest food and drink accreditation scheme, with each product entered tested by more than 500 expert panellists.

This wasn’t really our core product when we launched​,” Matt explained.

Our 4% ABV sparkling mead was initially launched but we got lots of requests for a traditional version so we thought it would be worth a try. Winning the three-star award was just unheard of for us and getting invited to London for the ceremony was very exciting, but we knew we were up against some highly competitive brands and we didn’t really expect to win.”

The brothers believe the accolade has helped “justify​” what they are doing as a business and serves as a real asset when speaking with potential future stockists. Meanwhile, they credited some of the brewery's success to the assistance offered by Food Innovation Wales and the Welsh Government’s cluster network.

You can see England from where we live in Chepstow and if we were based 300 metres in the other direction, we would not be receiving the same support that we do in Wales​,” said Matt.

Throughout TasteWales / BlasCymru, the brothers took the opportunity to meet with several national retailers and look into developing an export channel for their range. They feel their success in the UK to date has gone some way to proving there is a market for mead and the target now is to test just how large that demand might be.

In other news, Food Manufacture rounds up the latest senior appointments from across the food and beverage industry.

Related topics People & Skills NPD Drinks

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