Wrexham Lager keen to capitalise on city’s new found fame

By William Dodds

- Last updated on GMT

Wrexham Lager was reborn in 2013 and is keen to expand
Wrexham Lager was reborn in 2013 and is keen to expand

Related tags Beverages

New Wrexham Lager chief executive James Wright tells Food Manufacture about the brand’s plans to use the city’s new found fame as a launchpad for expansion in the UK and around the world.

Initially founded in 1882, Wrexham Lager was reborn in 2013 after the brand was purchased for £1 by Clwyd South MP Martin Jones.

The Wrexham Lager name had been dormant since 2002 when production was ceased and the brewery was demolished, but under the stewardship of Jones and the Roberts family, the historic beer maker is on the rise once again.

With a new premises in the centre of Wrexham, the brewer is now looking to capitalise on the widespread attention that the city has garnered since Hollywood actors Ryan Reynolds and Rob McElhenney purchased the local football team in November 2020.

The subsequent documentary series ‘Welcome to Wrexham’, centred around the team, its fans and the celebrity owners, has only helped promote the area further and new Wrexham Lager chief executive James Wright is hopeful that the business can take advantage of this golden opportunity.

When he spoke to Food Manufacture at trade show TasteWales / BlasCymru in October 2023​, Wright had only been in the role for five weeks but explained that the unique situation had necessitated a rapid induction period.

We have an interesting opportunity because the Wrexham brand has gained so much notoriety and visibility​,” he said.

But we also are a brand that has more than 140 years of heritage as the original lager brewery in the UK​, and we cannot lose sight of that.”

Wright arrived at Wrexham Lager with 25 years of experience in the drinks industry, having worked for brands including Red Bull, Modelo, Lamb’s Navy Rum and Crabbies. Outlining his plans for the beer manufacturer, he said that “step-change​” was required in order to capitalise on the new-found interest in the North Wales city.

He elaborated: “We need to consider all the different factors related to expansion, including the SKU offering, our production capacity, our brand proposition, how we service other parts of the world. I am also looking at finding new investors, because when you expand at a certain speed in markets like the US, you need cashflow to keep momentum going in the right direction.”

Wright believes that the brand’s heritage and equity in the local area remains a key selling point, while he also highlighted the high-quality local water that provides the basis for its beer. From his perspective, the next step for the brand depends on its ability to utilise these assets by effectively communicating with prospective customers in the UK and abroad.

We need to ensure that our messaging is clear and we find the right tone of voice​,” Wright said.

Wales has a lot of small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) but only a few have built a brand on a global scale. Penderyn whisky has started to achieve this kind of footprint after 20 years, and we believe that the Wrexham Lager name can help propel brand Wales and achieve a high reach quickly.”

As it stands, the brewer has strong relationships with a number of distributors in the UK, but wants to grow its presence with the key retailers. Wright is also focused on finding the right balance between on trade and off trade, increasing production capacity and optimising the ratio between keg, bottles and cans.

While we undertake this process we cannot lose sight of our core values about community, heritage and sustainability,” ​he added.

We want to be as future proof as possible because if you make mistakes now then it will cost you down the line.”

In addition to his day-to-day role, Wright serves on the Food and Drink Wales Industry Board, an advisory group made up of experts from across the public and private sectors that advises the Senedd on issues facing the industry. He has also worked closely with the Welsh Government as part of his bid to grow Wrexham Lager’s presence around the world, a “collaborative approach”​ that he believes can benefit both parties.

Wright concluded: “With the relationships I have across the industry we want to move quickly, but while also keeping our feet firmly on the ground. We have a heritage brand that can both benefit from and benefit brand Wrexham and brand Wales moving forward.”

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