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Steven Smith-Hay celebrates Tesco listing

Vault City Brewing is celebrating after securing a listing with Tesco that sees 4-packs of its Strawberry & Peach 330ml cans available in 650 stores nationwide.

The deal has helped the Edinburgh-based firm pass the £3m turnover mark for the first time – an almost 50% year-on-year increase.

Despite reports that beer sales are set to decline in 2023, Vault City Brewing founder Steven Smith-Hay remains optimistic for the next 12 months, fuelled by Tesco’s desire to diversify its alcohol range and interest from overseas. He said: “As a small, independent craft brewer, we’re so proud to see our product stocked on the shelves in so many different Tesco supermarkets up and down the UK.

“We’re still a small team and it gives all of us so much faith in our product and all the hard work we put in to have landed such a significant deal.

“Tesco’s investment in our Strawberry and Peach sour beer proves the appetite for craft beer across the country continues to grow. This is a huge opportunity to get Vault City into the hands of lots more people.”

The Tesco deal also appears to vindicate Vault City’s shift to a shorter working week. The business became the first brewer in the UK to formally adopt a four-day week in January last year. A reduction in working hours by 20% has coincided with business growth of approximately 50%, as well as improved staff productivity, mental health and overall happiness.

Steven said: “Obviously decreasing work hours is a huge commitment for a small business to make, however we’ve always believed work-life balance should be a big part of our culture and something worth striving for.

“After successful trials, we made the permanent switch at the start of last year and the feedback has been overwhelmingly positive. More staff are able to spend time with their families, switch off and prevent burnout.

“Many studies have shown switching to a four-day week actually improves productivity and despite the decrease in hours, we can confidently say the team feels more motivated during those four days, knowing that they have three days to live their lives outside of work and recharge their batteries.

“The last 12 months has been a significant period of growth for the business, and we firmly believe the four-day workweek played a huge part in that.”

Steven, aged 32, started brewing sour beer from his home as a hobby before launching Vault City in 2018.

The business, which specialises in heavily fruited, modern sour beers – with flavours such as Mango Banana Coconut Crumble, Iron Brew and Raspberry Roulade – has since become one of the UK’s best-selling sour beer brands and the biggest in Scotland.

The firm’s turnover now exceeds £3.1m, allowing for significant funds to be used towards growth; the addition of 10 new tanks means fermentation capacity has quadrupled from 26,000 litres to 105,000 litres, while its team of 19 people is expected to grow to more than 25 this year.

The brewer launched its first core range in May 2022 and is listed by close to 200 independent bars and pubs across the UK. After a successful crowdfunding campaign, it launched the Porty Vault Taproom and Smokehouse in Portobello, complementing their Wee Vault Tasting Room and Bottle Shop in Haymarket. Alongside Tesco, its beers are also available in Morrisons, with other major retailers in the pipeline.

On top of this, the export market accounts for around 20% of total sales, with Vault City available in more than 15 countries, including Norway, Denmark and Singapore and Thailand.

Steven said: “The global appetite for sour beer is there, and we believe there’s a global appetite for Vault City beers too.”