Friday, 20 April 2012

George Younger's Export Trade 1876 - 1914

George Younger's export trade needed flexibility, initiative and enterprise to maintain. As is shown in the constantly shifting destinations for their beer. That they made such an effort to keep it going demonstrates the importance of exports for the company.

As markets closed, they sought out new ones. A policy that seems to have succeeded up until WW I. A cataclysmic event for British brewers. One from which, you could argue, they've never fully recovered. The following paragraphs tell a complicated tale. I'll paraphrase it for you later.

"A steady and ever increasing export trade both in bulk and bottled ales and stout is shown in the records from 1876 up to the start of the great war in 1914.

It is of interest to note the change in the various markets during the 21 years from 1875-1896. The American and Canadian markets came to a sudden stop in 1875; while a steady and increasing trade had been developed in the South African ports; Algoa Bay, Port Elizabeth and Durban are regular entries.

The West Indian market also was flourishing; Demerara, Barbados and Trinidad being the principal places. The Australian market appears, however, to have weakened during this period, Brisbane and Sydney being the only ports to which shipments were made.

It was during this period that the Indian and East Indian markets became more prominent. There were regular shipments to Madras with an occasional shipment to Bombay and more frequently to Calcutta. Singapore, Rangoon and Penang are becoming better markets, while there is also an occasional order for Malta and Hong Kong.   Colombo, on the other hand, which prior to 1875 had been a good market, had by this time dropped out completely. From 1897 to 1907 Export Sales both in bulk and in bottle remained fairly stationary, the tendency being rather for a slight fall in the former and a correspondingly slight increase in the latter.

The actual position of the various markets, one which in most cases did not change to any appreciable extent up to the start of the Great War in 1914, was as follows: New markets in Egypt and Constantinople took occasional supplies. The South African markets practically erased to take up supplies by 1908, and like the Australian markets, although making an occasional shipment up to 1914, ceased to be of any importance after 1908. A final effort to keep the Australian trade going in Sydney was made in 1911 when a chilling and bottling plant was established; these efforts, however, did not meet with any success.

The West Indian trade continued to take supplies steadily, Trinidad in particular, being the best and largest market, while Demerara and Barbados continued to be good customers. The Indian trade from 1898 was a steadily increasing one up to 1914, and was the main market for bulk supplies after the Australian bulk trade ceased, to all intent, in 1908.

There were regular and steady shipments to Calcutta, Bombay, and Madras and these continued up to 1914. Colombo also began taking supplies again in 1900; Hong Kong and Shanghai were steady markets up to 1907, but were gradually dropping off from that date and ceased taking supplies by 1914.

The market with the most interesting history was the Straits Settlements. This had been an improving market, with a growing connection, and increasing shipments to Rangoon, Singapore, Penang and Port Swettenham.

The rubber boom which started in 1911 brought with it such sudden and unexpected demand for bottled stout, that it was impossible to ship sufficient supplies to meet it. A representative from the agents representing George Younger & Son Limited in the Straits Settlements actually came to Alloa with a very large sum of money with him, as he thought the firm was holding back supplies, owing to lack of confidence in their financial standing. He had not realised that stout for export bottling had to mature in cask for a year before bottling, and that the shortage in the stock of stout could not be remedied for several months."
"A Short History of George Younger & Son Limited, Alloa, (1762 - 1925)", 1925, pages 6 - 8.

1875 the North American markets disappear.
1876 - 1896 West Indian trade strong, East Indian trade strong, Australian trade weakening.
1897 - 1914 South African and Australian trade disappears, East Indian trade stable, West Indian trade strong, some new trade in Turkey and Egypt, after 1911 a boom in trade with Malaya and Singapore (Straits Settlements)

Organising the shift in focus around the globe must have required a great deal of effort and planning. Which implies there must have been good money in the trade otherwise why go to all that trouble?

There are several other points of interest in that passage. Like the gradual switch from bulk to bottled exports around 1900. And the attempt to hang onto the Australian business by building a bottling plant there. Again, something that seems like an awful lot of effort. It seems there were two ways in which Younger lost export business: local breweries being established in their markets; import tarifs. I'm sure that as breweries were established in Malaya, Singapore and India in the early 20th century that these markets also dried up.

The section about Stout for the Straits Settlements is worthy of particular attention. Firstly that Younger was exporting Stout there. Strong Export Stout isn't the first thing that comes to mind when I think of Scottish breweries. It certainly wasn't a speciality north of the border. It's an example of the flexibility required to keep trade abroad. Younger brewed it, presumably, because there was demand, even though it wasn't something that would be in their portfolio of domestic products. Unlike Pale Ale and Strong Scotch Ale. I was also interested to learn that Younger were ageing their Stout for a year before export. Just like Guinness did with Foreign Extra Stout. Guinness had exactly the same type of difficulty in getting the stocking level right of a product where demand had to be anticipated more than twelve months in advance.

There's a final instalment to come in this series. A much shorter one. The size reflecting what happened to Younger's foreign business in the aftermath of WW I.

1 comment:

Martyn Cornell said...

OCR error:

" occasional shipment to Home ay and wort frequently to Calcutta"

should of course be

"" occasional shipment to Bombay and more frequently to Calcutta"

although perhaps your OCR software has a Scottish accent - "Waur's this wort ga'en - Home?" "Ay."