MB Insights: The Brewers Congress 2023: What’s New in Brewing?

Consumer, Drinks, Events, Hospitality, Industry, Insight, Sustainability, Technology

Posted on 17 October 2023

With worldwide revenue in the billions and roots that span millennia, today’s beer is an intriguing mix of passion, tradition, and innovation.

From charming microbreweries to sprawling industrial operations, the quest for brewing perfection has rapidly evolved this age-old craft into both an art form and a precise science.

While breweries from around the globe compete to create the ultimate ‘amber’, many are set to gather at the upcoming Brewers Congress in London.

With the prestigious event on the horizon, MacGregor Black sat down with industry expert Kieron Hall to delve into the ever-changing landscape of brewing, explore the latest cutting-edge techniques & technologies, and take a sneak peek at the brands that are set to cause a stir at this year’s Brewers Congress.

The Brewers Congress 2023

At its core, the Brewers Congress is a celebration of brewing excellence.

Hosted at the Business Design Centre in London, the event brings together some of the brightest minds in the industry, offering a unique platform for sharing knowledge, experiences, and innovations.

Brewers, both established and up-and-coming will unite under one roof to exchange ideas and push the boundaries of what’s possible in the world of beer. In its latest edition, the Congress will feature 30 guest speakers, 80 industry suppliers and over 300 breweries, bringing together not only some of the sharpest minds, but also the most tantalising flavours in the brewing world.

The climax of the Congress is undoubtedly the Brewer’s Choice Awards, which honours the finest accomplishments in brewing and recognises outstanding brewers, professionals, and innovations that have made a mark in the industry.

Previous victors have included the likes of Lost and Grounded Brewers, Derek Prentice, Lakes Brew Co, Lara Lopes, Moonwake, Rudi Ghequire, North Brewing, Abbeydale Brewery, and Colin Stronge.

With such impressive past winners, it’s anyone’s guess who will take home the coveted titles this year!

Brewing Evolution – The Latest Techniques & Technologies

Sustainable Brewing

In an age where environmental concerns weigh increasingly on consumers’ minds, breweries worldwide are wholeheartedly embracing sustainability as a core principle. It’s not just a trendy buzzword anymore; it’s a vital commitment to environmental stewardship, resource efficiency, and ethical practices.

Sustainable brewing entails a multifaceted approach, focusing on key areas that make a real impact:

  • Energy efficiency
  • Water conservation
  • Waste reduction
  • Responsible sourcing
  • Community engagement

When it comes to slashing energy consumption, breweries are turning to innovative solutions, such as investing in renewable energy sources like solar panels and wind turbines. Simultaneously, many brands are also adopting energy-efficient equipment and practices, including optimising heating and cooling systems, implementing LED lighting, and recovering heat from the brewing process to preheat water.

Take, for instance, Signature Brew,” Comments drinks specialist, Kieron Hall.

They’re two-time winners of SIBA’s prestigious Brewery Of The Year Award and they’ve definitely made sustainability a cornerstone of their brewing philosophy,”

Thanks to their state-of-the-art steam boiler that maximises heat energy, Signature Brew’s brewhouse efficiency is something to be proud of. They recycle heat energy from one batch to the next, so cooling one batch of beer provides the necessary heat for the next brew.”

Packaging also plays a pivotal role in Signature Brew’s sustainability journey, with the brand opting for cans over glass bottles.

Kieron goes on to explain the reasons behind their decision, stating that it “Comes down to a few different factors,”

Cans are lighter, making them more eco-friendly during transport and they’re also easier to recycle. Their ‘stackability’ reduces storage space and energy use during transportation. Not to mention, cans chill faster, saving energy in the cooling process.”

At the 2023 Brewers Congress Awards, alongside Anspach & Hobday, North Brewing Co and Northern Monk, Signature Brew are proudly shortlisted for the 2023 Brewery of the Year Award.

Another concern amongst brewers is water usage. Water is a precious resource in brewing, and breweries in all corners of the world are making concerted efforts to reduce their water usage.

Adnams, a historic brewery hailing from Suffolk since its establishment in 1872, recently observed that their distillery produced a high temperature water waste stream, meaning a valuable resource was literally, going down the drain.

In response, a closed loop recovery system was developed to retain that resource. Now, the heat and water from Adnams’ beer and spirits production process is captured and reused, which has not only reduced water usage in their distillery but has also led to significant savings on their energy bills.

Remarkably, Adnams now recovers over 90% of the steam generated during their brewing process and converts it back into heat for the next batch.” Adds, Kieron.

Their forecasted water savings for this year alone is a whopping 2 million Litres. That’s a clear testament to the positive impact of sustainability-driven initiatives.”

Techniques such as closed-loop water systems are gaining popularity. Additionally, rainwater harvesting, and water-efficient equipment are also helping breweries minimise their water footprint.

Another aspect of sustainable brewing is crop cultivation.

Science and research have shown us that agriculture plays a significant role in climate issues, and breweries are now exploring regenerative farming techniques with the aim of reducing or eliminating the emissions associated with barley cultivation.

South-London based brewery; Gypsy Hill Brewery is claiming a world’s first with the release of their carbon negative beers, without the use of offsets. The brand’s new brews are based on two main technologies, regenerative barley, and recaptured hops. To achieve this impressive goal, Gypsy Hills has partnered exclusively with Wildfarmed, who work hand-in-hand with farmers to implement practices like intercropping, cover cropping, and reduced tillage.

Commenting on Gypsy Hill’s success, Kieron states, “Gypsy Hill’s practices have many far-reaching benefits.

They enhance soil health, curbing erosion, and perhaps most significantly, sequestering carbon. In simpler terms, the process of farming this regenerative barley locks away more carbon in the soil than it releases into the atmosphere.”

Brewing Technologies

Whilst brewing beer is steeped in tradition, there’s no denying that the industry has recognised the potential of technology to enhance the process and increase efficiency.

More and more breweries are adopting advanced brewing technologies, including automated brewing systems, data-driven analytics, and innovative packaging solutions.

When asked about automated brewing systems, industry expert Kieron comments that, “They control all aspects of the brewing process, from mashing to fermentation, right the way through to packaging. Basically, the more automated the brewing process, the lesser the chances of human errors and inconsistency, which in turn can save the brand money, time, and effort.”

American craft brewing company, Bell’s Brewery is another great example of a brand that has made significant advancements in the world of technological brewing, with their Comstock based facility adorning all the hallmarks of a modern industrial manufacturer. The facility boasts a centralised control room, automated systems, and advanced robotics. Including, automated filling stations and keg lifting and palletising robots.

Speaking to Automation Alley on the state-of-the-art facility, tour guide, Ray Bristol comments,

We have the robot arms that replaced the human power of having to move kegs. All of the things our automated systems do to prevent the repetition and wear and tear on the human body,” Bristol said. One robot arm flips kegs to the upright state after they are filled. The other neatly stacks pallets of beer set for shipping out across the country,”

Prior to this we were more limited in throughput because it required someone using human power to flip kegs. . .Obviously, this is really tough on the body, and nobody wanted to do this for a long period of time. So we didn’t run at the same rate we are able to run at today.” Bristol said.

Packaging is also an integral part of the brewing industry, serving multiple purposes such as, preserving the quality of the product, promoting brand awareness, and ensuring regulatory compliance.

New packaging technologies are helping brewers all over the world preserve the quality and flavour of many much-loved beers,” States Kieron.

Beavertown Brewery are a great example. They use cans with special linings that prevent oxygen from getting into the beer and contaminating its flavour.”

‘Brands to Watch’ at BC 2023

With 30 guest speakers, 80 industry suppliers and over 300 breweries attending the Brewers Congress this year, there’s bound to be many brands making a splash.

Industry expert Kieron Hall has listed the brands, alongside those mentioned throughout this article, that we should be watching out for at the brewers Congress 2023, and why.


Founded in 2018, SALT is a brewery that has successfully married traditional techniques with modern innovations, crossing styles, exploring new ingredients, and producing many award-winning craft beers along the way.

The Yorkshire based beer’s branding draws inspiration from Sir Titus Salt, a pioneering industrialist who is best known for launching Salt’s textile mill and building the village of Saltaire in West Yorkshire, the brand’s homeland. With the aim of adding to the rich history and legacy that surrounds them, the SALT beer factory is proudly nestled within a Unesco World Heritage site, housed in a Grade 2 listed building that was previously used as a tram shed in 1904.

In 2022, the brand debuted their Double IPA, brewed with a ground breaking new form of hop from Yakima Chief Hops. Considered a much more reliable product than standard whole leaf hops, Yakima Chief Hops combines the concept of fresh frozen hops and the innovative technology of Cryo Hops®, which are pellets packed full of resins and aromas.

Late year, SALT also took steps towards brewing a brighter future, having teamed up with the world’s first plastic-offsetting service and ocean clean-up organisation – Seven Clean Seas to launch the hazy craft pale ale.

SALT’s Head Brewer, Colin Stronge, winner of the Brewer of the Year award at the 2022 Brewers Choice Awards, will be speaking at the Brewers Congress this year, dishing out advice, support, and encouragement to new and existing brewers. With an impressive career in brewing spanning over two decades, and five exciting years dedicated to SALT, Colin’s extensive industry experience ensures his speech at the Brewers Congress will undoubtedly, one to watch.

Mash Gang

Mash Gang, a name that’s been making waves among beer aficionados, is known for its innovative approach to brewing. Founded on the principles of quality, creativity, and sustainability, this brewery has steadily carved out a niche for itself in the competitive market, now and low craft beers.

Stemming from a dedication to inclusivity and a commitment to sustainable brewing practices, one of Mash Gang’s defining moments arrived with the introduction of their vegan beer. Mash Gang’s vegan beer is crafted without the use of any animal-based additives. This means no honey, no lactose, and no gelatine in the brewing process, right down to the glue used on their labels. Instead, they rely on innovative techniques and plant-based ingredients to achieve the same depth of flavour and quality that beer enthusiasts have come to expect from the brand.

Mash Gang’s commitment to vegan beer is not an isolated endeavour. It aligns with their broader commitment to sustainability. The brewery has implemented a range of eco-conscious practices, from energy-efficient brewing equipment to waste reduction initiatives, ensuring that their commitment to ethical brewing extends beyond just ingredients.

Mash Gang will be exhibiting their range of exciting craft beers at the Brewers Congress this year, with their very own Founder & Chief Product Officer, Jordan Childs has been shortlisted for the 2023 Brewer of the Year Award.

BigDrop Brewing Co

Non-alcoholic beer, once a marginalised category, is now taking centre stage, and Big Drop Brewing Co has solidified itself as a name worth knowing in the industry.

Their range of non-alcoholic beers includes a stunning array of styles, from stouts and IPAs to pale ales and lagers. These aren’t mere imitations; they’re fully realized, delicious brews that deliver a world of taste without the alcohol. Not to mention, they brew all their beers with carefully selected brewing partners, so their beer comes without the nasty taste of an unnecessary carbon footprint.

The process of creating Big Drop’s non-alcoholic beer is unique in that it starts as regular beer. After brewing, the alcohol is gently removed, allowing the flavours to remain intact. This is in contrast to many non-alcoholic beers that are essentially diluted versions of their alcoholic counterparts.

The proof, as they say, is in the pudding. Big Drop Brewing Co’s commitment to quality has been recognised with numerous awards and accolades, including World Beer Awards and the International Beer Challenge.

Most recently, in May of this year, Big Drop Brewing Co initiated a licensing agreement with In Good Company, the proprietor of Fourpure Brewing and Magic Rock Brewing. This strategic move is a pivotal part of Big Drop’s overarching strategy to significantly expand its operations and support its global growth aspirations.

The core idea behind this move is to create seamless collaboration with brewing partners in three pivotal markets: the United Kingdom, the United States, and Australia.

Building on their already successful history of contract brewing at Fourpure in Bermondsey, Big Drop views this new partnership as a natural progression of its decentralized business model. This model enables them to produce fresh 0.5% ABV beer locally and ethically, all while keeping the carbon footprint to a minimum.

This collaboration also benefits In Good Company by diversifying its portfolio to meet the evolving preferences of craft beer enthusiasts. According to the IWSR Drinks Market Analysis, the compound annual growth rate for the alcohol-free beer market in the UK is projected to reach an impressive +12% until 2026.

Amongst SALT, Mash Gang and Big Drop Brewing Co, industry specialist Kieron Hall recommends checking out Northern Monk, who’s very own Quality Control Manager, Tanya Kondratyuk will be speaking at the Brewers Congress.

Over the past two years at Monk, Tanya has displayed her remarkable prowess by spearheading the design and supervision of the brand-new Quality Control (QC) laboratory. In addition, she masterminded the launch of Monk’s current analytical and microbiological sampling programs, established a comprehensive yeast propagation plan, organised sensory panels, and diligently managed the barrel aging program.

Her contributions extend beyond the laboratory, as she also played an integral role in production planning and the development of new and exciting recipes.

Northern Monk has the potential to collect multiple accolades at the Brewers Congress this year, with the brand being shortlist for the Brewery of the Year Award, their Faith beer making the shortlist for the 2023 Beer of the Year Award, and their Brewery Manager, Pietro Maltini, who has been shortlisted for the 2023 Young Brewer of the Year Award.

In an industry where every drop of creativity matters, the Brewers Congress 2023 is gearing up to be a grand celebration of diversity, sustainability, and innovation – the driving forces shaping the world of brewing.

With trailblazing brands like SALT, Northern Monk, Big Drop Brewing Co, Mash Gang, and Signature Brew leading the way, we’re on the path to a future that’s not only more sustainable but also more inclusive and technologically advanced.

Here’s to raising a toast to that exciting journey! Cheers!

Consumer, Industry, Insight, Nursery, Retail, Technology

Posted on 27 September 2023

One Small Step for Babies, One Giant leap for Brands

Gone are the days when baby products were solely functional. Today, parents seek more than just basic utility; they demand products that seamlessly integrate into their busy lives, products that simplify the daily tasks associated with raising a child.

However, the pursuit of convenience has not come at the expense of safety, and fortunately, leading baby brands are on a mission to make parents’ lives easier by developing products that prioritise convenience, without cutting corners when it comes to safety.

Below, Industry Specialist, Emily showcases some of her preferred brands that are at the forefront of prioritising baby safety.


Stokke, a renowned Norwegian company, has been a global leader in crafting best-in-class solutions for children for over four decades.

Stokke’s guiding principle is always the best interest of the child, with all their products designed to promote child development and nurture stronger family connections. Everything the brand manufactures, from highchairs to cribs, strollers, and carriers, as a testament to their dedication to safety and well-being, with all of their products being ethically made and free from harmful substances.

What truly sets them apart is their Juvenile Products Manufacturers Association (JPMA) certification – an independent seal of approval that speaks volumes about their safety testing.

Before Stokke’s team of experts dive into creating a new product, they take the time to understand children and families, learning more about how their creations will be used and addressing any unique challenges that may arise.

To ensure this, they collaborate with a roster of experts in child development, from developmental psychologists to paediatricians, all working in unison to keep babies and kids safe.

Stokke has also set a remarkable standard for safety with its YoYo pushchair, a product that stands out for its contemporary design that seamlessly marries form and function. The YoYo pushchair’s user-friendly features, such as easy folding and compact storage, reflect Stokke’s dedication to enhancing the parenting experience.

While the YoYo pushchair’s design is undeniably appealing, what truly sets it apart is its commitment to safety. Stokke recognises that style should never come at the expense of a child’s well-being, and they have taken extensive testing measures to ensure that the YoYo pushchair meets and exceeds the global standards for child safety in baby products.


BeSafe, a family-owned Norwegian company, has an interesting history that dates back over 100 years. Originally known for crafting horse saddles since 1919 and car interiors since 1959, BeSafe shifted its focus to child safety in 1963.

A true pioneer, BeSafe introduced the concept of rear-facing car seats in 1989, advocating for children’s safety even when it faced scepticism. Today, rear-facing travel is recognised as five times safer than forward-facing.

BeSafe’s commitment to child safety is evident in its long history of innovations, from pregnancy belts to reclining baby seats, and its collaboration with premium stroller brands like Stokke.

This year, BeSafe’s Stretch B car seat earned a perfect 5-star safety rating in an international car seat test, with high praise from the German automotive association ADAC. The official ADAC tests compile the results of crash, usability, ergonomics, chemical, and cleaning assessments to give a product score. The lower the figure, the better the product has performed. ADAC highlights the Stretch B as a “Very safe child seat, in which children up to about 7 years of age are secured purely rear facing.”

BeSafe’s Stretch B, along with the Stretch model, has consistently performed well in various tests, earning titles like “Test winner” in Norway and Sweden by “Best-i-test.nu,” passing the rigorous Swedish Plus Test, and securing the “Best Car Seat for Safety” award from IndyBest in the UK. Notably, BeSafe’s commitment to sustainability also earned the Stretch B the Baby Innovation GREEN AWARD 2023, cementing its position as a leader in child safety and innovation.


CYBEX offers a diverse range of baby essentials, from car seats and baby carriers to kids’ furniture and pushchairs, and their hallmark is safety that seamlessly blends with urban lifestyles.

At the heart of CYBEX’s brand philosophy is the CYBEX D.S.F. Innovation Principle, a triple-threat strategy that encompasses unique Design, unbeatable Safety, and top-notch Functionality. This approach has not only given rise to award-winning car seats like the rear-facing Sirona but has also earned them an impressive fifteen Red Dot Design Awards. Overall, the brand has received over 500 awards for design, safety, and innovation.

In early 2014, CYBEX joined forces with the German company Goodbaby International Holdings Limited. Goodbaby, headquartered in China, boasts a remarkable legacy of over 25 years in research, development, design, and rigorous testing, backed by their state-of-the-art production facilities. They have set global benchmarks for safety, innovation, design, and manufacturing, making this partnership a match made in heaven for those seeking the very best in safe baby products.

Silver Cross

Silver Cross, a British nursery brand, is celebrated worldwide for its safe and aesthetically pleasing baby products. With a legacy spanning over 140 years, the brand has remained committed to upholding the highest standards of safety and craftsmanship, ensuring that infants receive the finest start in life.

Silver Cross takes pride in ensuring the safety and comfort of infants and toddlers by adhering to rigorous safety standards and conducting thorough testing to meet and exceed industry regulations. In 2020, the Silver Cross Dream infant carrier achieved ADAC’s highest ever score when put through their rigorous testing programme.

Silver Cross products adhere to stringent safety regulations, not just in one country but across various global markets. They understand that safety knows no borders, and their compliance with international standards ensures that children worldwide can enjoy their products securely.

In the realm of the baby products industry, a steadfast commitment to safety should not merely serve as a marketing strategy for brands; it should be the very bedrock upon which they build their foundations.

The responsibility to set the gold standard in safety lies firmly on the shoulders of industry leaders such as Stokke, BeSafe, Cybex, and Silver Cross. Whether it involves mitigating potential hazards like choking risks, safeguarding against sharp edges, eliminating the use of any potentially harmful materials, or steering clear of designs that could pose tipping risks, baby brands must leave no stone unturned in ensuring the safety and well-being of your precious little ones.

Consumer, DIY, Housewares, Insight, Retail

Posted on 13 September 2023

With the backdrop of the Covid-19 pandemic redefining the ways we inhabit our living spaces—combining work, leisure, and every-day life —global revenue in the DIY & home improvements sector has surged. This growth, amounting to 4.5% compared to previous years, has prompted experts to envision this industry’s potential to reach an astonishing $1.1 trillion.

Yet, as the Covid-19 dust settles and research indicates a gradual return to pre-pandemic growth rates, it prompts a compelling question: What lies ahead for the DIY & Housewares industry?

MacGregor Black sat down with Specialist DIY & Housewares Recruitment Consultant, Lewis Millican, to delve beneath the surface of the DIY & Housewares landscape and discuss the trends that are re-shaping the industry, the brands that are dominating the space, and what the future could hold for this ever-evolving category.

Unpacking the Trends

As the allure of home improvement experiences a slight ebb, brands in the sector are being encouraged to employ innovative strategies to maintain momentum amidst changing consumer behaviours and market dynamics.

So how are brands keeping up with the shifting tides?

Consumer-Centric Innovation

Whilst sustaining appeal and desirability within the consumer market has long been a fundamental objective for a business. In today’s unpredictable economy, this pursuit takes on even greater significance.

Consumer-centric innovation is an opportunity for brands to remain relevant and has quickly become a crucial element within the DIY and housewares sector. It empowers brands to create products and experiences precisely attuned to the evolving behaviours of consumers. An exemplary case of consumer-centric innovation can be seen by Etsy, the global online marketplace.

Recognising a growing desire among their customers to support small businesses, Etsy recently embarked on a series of initiatives. The “Etsy Uplift Initiative” was a standout, designed to highlight and elevate local and small-scale sellers, simplifying the process for customers to actively support these businesses.

USA, Louisiana, Baton Rouge. Pottery by Osa. Osa Atoe. Home studio.

Moreover, as Etsy also noted more of their consumers embracing sustainable and eco-conscious practices, the American eCommerce brand expressed its commitment to social responsibility through the “Afghan Refugees Collective.” This initiative encompasses over 20 shops owned by Afghan refugees in the United States, collectively generating over $800,000 in sales.

Not only do these moves resonate with the current consumer sentiment,” Lewis comments.

They also solidify Etsy’s reputation as a platform that listens to its audience and connects buyers with unique and authentic products.

A Personalised Approach

The significance of offering personalised and customisable products has emerged as a driving force behind sustained sales in the DIY & Housewares sector. Companies are no longer simply providing products; they’re empowering customers to become co-creators.

Tylko, a digital-first company specialising in customisable furniture, is a standout example of how harnessing a personalised approach can drive sales and foster brand loyalty in this post-pandemic era.

Tylko’s commitment to offering a personalised approach to furniture design, from adjustable shelving to bespoke tables, led to a whopping 132% increase in sales following Covid-19, in comparison to pre-pandemic years. A clear indicator that personalisation can enhance the emotional connection consumers have with their products, increasing their willingness to spend and ultimately bolstering brand loyalty.

Another approach that many brands can take to personalisation, is offering tailored recommendations to their customers shopping online.

Lowe’s, an American retail company specialising in home improvements, recently leveraged data from their loyalty program and customer interactions to create personalised offers and recommendations to customers shopping online. They used purchase history and browsing behaviour to send targeted promotions, discounts, and product recommendations to customers, which in turn, improved customer engagement and boosted post-pandemic sales.

Sustainability & Ethics

In a landscape where consumers’ focus on ethical consumption remains steadfast, embracing a sustainable and eco-friendly approach has become somewhat of a non-negotiable in not only the DIY & Housewares sector, but across various other industries.

IKEA, the Scandinavian ready-to-assemble furniture chain, is a prime example of this transformation. Previously plagued by controversy, IKEA has recently made significant strides towards becoming an eco-conscious company.

IKEA plans on achieving its ambitious goals by reducing plastics, utilising more sustainable materials, reducing packaging waste and continuing their campaign that allows customers to donate old furniture to make new pieces.

In February this year, the brand also released its sustainability and climate report detailing its plans to reduce its climate footprint and significantly increase the use of renewable energy. The Swedish retailer says it will address emissions across its supply chain and operations, from factories to transport, and target the impact of its roughly 460 stores. The company plans to increase the share of renewable energy in its supply chain, targeting 100% renewable energy in its production by the end of the decade.

Lewis Millican highlights that, “By investing in these initiatives, IKEA has not simply relied on a strategy of convenience and cost-efficiency, it has also successfully aligned itself with the current values of conscious consumers. The brand’s commitment to sustainability not only drives sales but does a good job at positioning IKEA as a brand that stands for more than just function.

Partnerships & Collaborations

In the wake of the pandemic, various brands in the DIY and homewares sector have recognised the value of strategic collaborations to fuel sales and elevate their market presence. The result? A wave of partnerships that bring together innovation, expertise, and consumer appeal, driving a new era of growth in the industry.

On the 16th of August, George at Asda announced it has signed a new, exclusive collaboration with English singer and TV personality, Stacey Solomon. With an impressive following of over 5.7 million on Instagram, with whom she keenly shares her DIY and home improvement tips with, Stacey Solomon is in an ideal position to influence George Home’s target audience and affirm the brand as a key destination in the home interiors market.

When asked his thoughts on partnerships and collaborations in the industry, Lewis commented that, “influencer partnerships like the George x Stacey Solomon partnership have become increasingly popular within the DIY and Homewares sector. Influencers, celebrity or not, have the ability to showcase real life applications of DIY and home improvement products, and this really resonates with a niche target audience.

According to a report conducted by The Social Shepherd in July this year, 61% of consumers trust influencer’s recommendations, meanwhile only 38% trusted branded social media content. Within this, working with influencers is simply unparalleled among younger consumers, as when looking for design inspiration in the planning of a room, nearly half of consumers aged 16 to 34 years old look to social media as the top source of influence for this age band.

With the above in mind, the partnership between George at Asda and Stacey could open the doors to new audiences, increase the brand visibility, and attract customers who may not have been previously exposed to the brand prior to the pandemic.

Another brand that has harnessed the power of partnerships is The Home Depot. The multi-national home improvements retailer has recently partnered with business intelligence company, Morning Consult to complete a survey which sampled recent homeowners or potential homebuyers born between 1981 and 2005.

The survey found that 53% of the millennials asked reported worries about purchasing their first home. In response, The Home Depot has launched the ‘New Homeowners Hub’, which aims to equip the next generation of current and future first-time homeowners with valuable resources including DIY guides, product recommendations, design inspiration and more.

Commenting on The Home Depot’s latest venture, Lewis states that “By recognising the specific hurdles millennials are up against, The Home Depot isn’t just demonstrating its dedication to keeping customers content; it’s also putting its brand on the same wavelength as a generation venturing into homeownership during these challenging post-pandemic times.

Who’s Dominating and who’s Challenging?

As the DIY & Housewares industry undergoes transformation, it’s crucial to acknowledge the legacy brands that have played pivotal roles in shaping its trajectory. Giants like Kingfisher, IKEA, Wayfair, The Home Depot, and Lowe’s – to name a few – have helped set industry standards and inspire new players.

Below, Lewis highlights some of the brands that are making big waves in the industry right now.

Lick Paint

Lick Paint is a London-based paint company founded in 2019 by Lucas London and Sam Bradley.

Launched with a fresh perspective, Lick Paint aims to disrupt the traditional paint-buying experience by offering a curated collection of paint colours and an online platform that simplifies the process of selecting and purchasing paint. Also, at a time when sustainability is paramount, the B-Corp certified brand’s paint is water-based, low in volatile organic compounds and their packaging is bio-degradable.

In 2021, Lick’s success prompted expansion beyond the UK into the United States, marking a significant milestone in their growth journey and making quality paint accessible to a global audience.

Lick Paint recently made headlines with an exciting collaboration, joining forces with The Kraft Heinz Company’s iconic Tomato Ketchup to introduce a ‘world-first’ opportunity. The Lick x Heinz partnership allows decorators and ketchup superfans alike to paint their homes in the vibrant ketchup red, aptly named Red HTK 57.

The limited-edition paint shade is exclusively available for a short time, with only 570 tins made-to-order via Lick’s website. This innovative partnership between Lick and Heinz brings together two passionate and distinct fan bases, poised to generate significant interest, elevate Lick’s brand visibility, and potentially drive increased sales.

Simba Mattresses

Sleep tech firm, Simba Mattresses, a prominent player in the DIY & Housewares industry has been steadily climbing the ladder at a time in which many of their competitors have found increasingly challenging.

Even after consumer confidence fell in March 2022, Simba doubled their 2019 sales, demonstrating just how robust their business model and trading performance is. Last year, the brand also introduced the GO (Green Organic) mattress, as part of their drive for more sustainable sleep.

Commenting on the importance of sustainability at Simba, Co-founder and CEO Steve Reid told Furniture News, “Our ‘Health, People, Planet’ pillars put health, sustainability, and people at the centre of everything we do, and sustainability is a key pillar – not because it’s popular, but because we have a moral responsibility to uphold it.”

That said, more consumers are making an informed choice with their sleep purchase. So, our mattresses are made in the UK, 100% recyclable, and we have a zero-to-landfill policy – all considerations at the point of purchase.”

Simba has also committed to making a conscious effort to offer more affordable and accessible price points for customers, as the cost-of-living crisis forces many to ditch their tool belt to tighten their financial belt. The retailer has extended their payment options from 12 months to 48, and now offer responsible lending in partnership with Novuna Consumer Finance.

Gorilla Glue

Gorilla Glue is another brand that has been steadily ascending in the industry in recent years. Founded in the US, Gorilla Glue has quickly gained a solid reputation for its high-performance adhesives that can be used on virtually any material (although we don’t recommend using it as hair gel…).

At the core of Gorilla Glue’s success is its commitment to product quality. Recently, Gorilla Glue placed number one in a test titled ‘The Best Wood Glues Tested in 2023’, conducted by DIY enthusiast Bob Vila. And in January 2023, the brand released three new products designed to appeal to customers who are passionate about DIY but favour easy application. Their Gorilla Grab Adhesive can be used without the need for a cartridge gun, making it an ideal product for those tackling large DIY projects who may be overwhelmed by using a gun.

As consumers seek convenient solutions for their DIY endeavours, Gorilla Glue’s offerings simplify the process, making it more accessible and less intimidating for both experienced DIY enthusiasts and newcomers alike.

In doing so, the brand has not only secured its place in the post-pandemic DIY landscape, but also contributed to the wave of home improvement enthusiasts looking to transform their living spaces.

What Does the Future Hold for the Industry?

As consumer behaviours undergo continuous evolution, it’s evident that the brands taking proactive steps to transform, adapt, and embrace innovation will likely emerge as the industry’s future leaders.

Among the most remarkable catalysts of this transformation is technology, and its influence extends even to the DIY sector.

Brands in the DIY & Housewares sector are increasingly focusing on their digital offering. They’re enhancing their websites, optimising for mobile devices, and utilising e-commerce platforms to make it easy for customers to browse and purchase products online. However, it doesn’t stop there…

As our featured industry expert rightly puts it “The integration of smart home technology has become a hallmark of the modern DIY & Housewares sector,

Think smart thermostats, lighting systems, security cameras, and voice-activated assistants. It’s all about efficiency and convenience. Artificial intelligence and automation will also play a more significant role in the industry, with more brands utilising AI-powered tools to provide personalised project recommendations and automation to ultimately achieve more efficient and precise manufacturing processes.” comments, Lewis.

Lewis also added that customers may also see more brands utilising Augmented Reality in the future. Apps and platforms like IKEA Place already allow its users to visualise how furniture and décor items will look in their space before making a purchase. Features like these not only replicate the in-store experience but they also empower customers to make informed purchase decisions from the comfort of their homes, contributing to sustained sales even as growth rates stabilise.

Not to mention, as environmental concerns continue to grow, technology will also play a vital role in promoting sustainability in the DIY & Housewares sectors.” Lewis observes.

Which could even go beyond the development of eco-friendly materials, energy-efficient products, and apps that calculate the environmental impact of home improvement projects.

So, as the initial surge in home improvement starts to level off, it’s clear to see that the industry faces a new landscape where innovation is the key to maintaining momentum. Consumer-centric innovation has taken centre stage, the importance of personalisation and customisability has surged, sustainability and ethics have become non-negotiable in the industry, and partnerships and collaborations have also played a significant role in driving industry growth. Today, the DIY & Housewares industry remains vibrant and full of opportunities for brands that are willing to adapt, innovate, and prioritise the needs of their customers.

If you’d like to speak with our dedicated team of specialist DIY & Housewares consultants, get in touch today via hello@macgregorblack.com or via +44 (0)191 691 1949.

Consumer Electronics, Practice Review

Posted on 3 July 2023

Has 2023 shown us the future of tech?

Each year consumer electronics manufacturers showcase their latest advancements at high-profile events, giving us a glimpse into what is to come. As is tradition, both ends of the spectrum, from mundane to magical are met with equal measures of criticism and scepticism. With 2023’s latest product debut leading us slowly but surely into the future.

At MacGregor Black, we’re supporting a number of clients, particularly across Finance, Ecommerce, and Commercial disciplines as they look to develop their digital and physical sales functions, whilst also retaining a crucial grip on financial analysis and reporting during a tough economic climate. As a result many of our clients are requesting shorter term recruitment campaigns and internal talent teams are seeing increased value from our proactive Talent Alert service.

Into the second half of 2023, we’re expecting to see these trends continue, with an additional focus on NPD and Product/Category Managers as many of our manufacturing clients continue to expand their product portfolios. As inflation continues to rise in many global markets, demand has remained, however continues its shift toward more value-based purchases. A trend we’re seeing across many of our practices as consumer consistently seek to bring more products and services ‘in-house’ at cost-effective and sustainable price points. As a result of this, traditionally higher-price point items are beginning to witness (on average) a drop in pricing as consumers are less inclined to spontaneously replace and more inclined to reuse.

Companies such as Hisense have experienced particular success largely due to ATL sports marketing campaigns, the further development of global sales networks and their impressive quality vs price point ratio.

Smart device and wearable tech also continues to grow in demand due to shifting global demographics and advancements in technology. Apple’s latest release of their ‘Vision Pro’ headset is a clear signal to the market that they feel consumers are ready for Augmented Reality, pioneering the move much as they did with the Apple Watch. We’re seeing a number of manufacturers commission market maps, in preparation for an increase in similar products over the long-term.

Our dedicated practice has grown with the addition of Daniel Hookway. A former professional golfer, Dan brings with him first-hand experience within an award-winning digital agency, supporting high-performing SEO, PPC, and Data Analytics campaigns. At MacGregor Black he leads our ecommerce division within our Consumer Goods practice, delivering industry-leading management & executive recruitment campaigns, on both permanent and interim vacancies.

If you’d like to discuss our support on a current or future role, or are looking for your next career move, get in touch with our dedicated Consumer Electronics Practice today via hello@macgregorblack.com or by calling +44 (0)191 691 1949

Drink, Practice Review

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The Great Drinks Disruption.

As the market continues to adjust following covid, supply chain shortages, and rising costs, the light at the end of the tunnel is beginning to grow brighter by the day, and the dust is beginning to settle.

Demand is continuing to gather pace among RTD and no-and-low producers, with a range of new product releases continuing to flow into the market. As a result, we’re supporting a number of UK manufacturers as they look to build on their established Operations, Commercial, Marketing, Procurement, and Finance teams.

With NPD and innovation witnessing a meteoric rise in investment, many of our clients have experience portfolio growth. As a result, Marketing in particular has seen a gradual rise in preference toward agency professionals, with the flexibility and fast paced nature lending itself well to many of the ‘multi-brand’ groups that we’ve supported during Q1 and Q2.

With many clients entering new markets, high-performing sales professionals are also in high-demand, including NAM’s, KAM’s, Departmental Heads, and Region/Area/Country Managers. A number of executive headhunts are also due to commence in Q3, particularly in the UK and Scotland, with a number of Commercial positions in our pipeline.

In a boost for the Wine market, the UK government announced a free trade deal between Australia and New Zealand. Coming into effect at the end of Q1, forecast’s have predicted a 53-59% increased in bi-lateral trade, also making it easier for UK professionals to live and work in Australia. However, similar trade deals with the US and the EU, sought by the UK government, have been denied and are looking increasingly unlikely in the short-mid term.

During Q2, our dedicated practice launched a range of successful partnerships with brands across Australia, Germany, and the UK, supporting new clients within craft beer, rum, and luxury spirits. A number of Q3 talent maps are actively being produced on behalf of clients, particularly with Global Travel Retail Executives, International/Senior Key Account Managers, as well as Logistics/Supply Chain, and as always, Skilled Engineers, with a range of exciting new vacancies due to be released in the coming weeks.

To meet the increased demand among NPD, innovation, and operational roles, our global Drinks practice welcomed award-winning mixologist Kieron Hall to the team, who supports our Operations function across national and international Drinks clients.

If you’d like to discuss our support on a current or future role, or are looking for your next career move, get in touch with our dedicated Drinks Practice today via hello@macgregorblack.com or by calling +44 (0)191 691 1949

Food, Practice Review

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Cost of living vs health-conscious consumers.

The global food industry finds itself in the midst of a battle. A battle that sees sustainability at the forefront and in many more ways than one.

The rise in global costs is having varying effects on the markets within consumer & retail. Within the food industry it brings it’s own unique challenges forcing shoppers to reassess their own personal balance between cost, environmental impact, origin, fresh vs frozen, nutrition, as well as where & when to shop. High inflation in the UK & Europe is driving more budget friendly product development, positioning and packaging design, with the US market showing signs of following suit, however at a smaller scale due to considerably lower inflation.

As a result, we’re successfully delivering more reactive and fast paced talent campaigns, with our clients looking to commission and complete projects within reduced timeframes, across all functions. For example, a UK Food Group briefed us on an urgent need for an NPD Technologist. As specialists, we presented a candidate from our network for interview and managed through to acceptance just 6 days after receiving the brief.

Our food practice have added further PSL agreements for three major UK food manufacturers, with a large number of roles available throughout Q3 and Q4 of 2023, including Engineering, Supply Chain, HR, Finance, Procurement, and Commercial. We have also been retained on a range of Executive roles with existing clients based in the UK and Europe, with headhunts ongoing.  

The Commercial arm of our dedicated Food team is working with a number of high-growth SME’s, with a particular focus on building international sales teams to break into new territories. Our Finance specialists have also reported strong growth in their markets, supporting a number of new clients with multi-role team expansion and targeted market maps.

Many of the world’s major food groups have also continued to develop their long-term sustainability and environmental initiatives, including Nestle, Del Monte, and General Mills who aim to be net-zero by 2050 as well as PepsiCo and JBS by 2040.

At MacGregor Black, our global Food practice attended the Retail Supply Chain & Logistics Expo in London, consulting with a number of emerging brands in the market. In April, a selection of our dedicated team attended the Food & Drink Expo at the NEC Birmingham, to support a number of clients with upcoming projects, discuss future vacancies, and offer advice.

If you’d like to discuss our support on a current or future role, or are looking for your next career move, get in touch with our dedicated Food Practice today via hello@macgregorblack.com or by calling +44 (0)191 691 1949

Outdoor, Practice Review, Sports

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Big brands are continuing their digital integration.

With ecommerce spend falling, many industries are continuing their drive toward technology, despite a 3.3% drop in online spend as digital demand heads toward pre-pandemic levels.

In comparison, retail sales are up 1% as shoppers continue to readjust to a post-covid world. Although unbalanced, signalling a clear drop in overall spend, we’re still seeing many of our clients continue to invest in digital in the pursuit of effective re-engagement strategies, as they look to reengage many of the new customers they gained during the online boom.

Brands such as New Balance and Puma enjoyed a particularly strong Q1, following Ecommerce and Digital initiatives during Q3 and Q4 of 2022, along with the continuing of key collaborations, for example AMI Paris, and Aime Leon Dore. A trend which we’re seeing continue, with our team building a number of data analytics and technology-based market maps on behalf of clients in the UK, Netherlands, Scandinavia, and North America.

During Q1, our team attended a number of key industry events such as Slide & OTS, building new partnerships particularly in the UK and US markets, supporting Sales, Marketing, & Operations teams as they look to expand. With many brands looking to expand their product teams, particularly, design and fabric technologists, our team have begun building talent pipelines and producing talent maps to support internal HR teams ahead of upcoming recruitment campaigns.

In Q2, our Sports & Outdoor practice have opened a range of new partnerships with brands based in Holland, Portugal, and the UK, with a number of confidential, executive level headhunts currently taking place. We have also furthered developed our relationships with a number of existing clients, becoming exclusive talent partners for two major UK manufacturers. With ongoing team builds taking place across a number of existing clients, Q3 will see us release a steady flow of new management roles in Marketing, Ecommerce, HR, and Sales in particular.

Our dedicated practice has grown, with the addition of James Westwood who now leads the recruitment of management and executive level finance professionals in both UK & International markets. James holds over a decade of experience as a professional Golfer, followed by roles in Financial Services and is supporting our network of clients through end-to-end vacancy management, team builds, talent mapping, competitor benchmarking, and international relocation.

If you’d like to discuss our support on a current or future role, or are looking for your next career move, get in touch with our dedicated Sport & Outdoor Practice today via hello@macgregorblack.com or by calling +44 (0)191 691 1949

Nursery, Practice Review, Toy Industry

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In today’s market, demand is driven by two main factors.

Technology and Value.

The Nursery & Toy industry, although some may argue was late to the party, is investing rapidly in the two.

In the Nursery industry, although classic toys are in the midst of a boom, the demand in some way confirms the rapid increase in technology, which is driving some consumer behaviour back toward nostalgia.

Not simply an integration of electronics, technology is also being used heavily in the design and manufacturing process, with a wide range of brands seeking to improve the perceived value of their products through sustainability efforts to improve their product’s lifespan and re-usability. One such brand includes Norwegian manufacturer Stokke, recently reporting a 35% revenue increase in 2022 and with EBITDA profit rising to 9%. Additional acquisitions of Limas, Mukako, Babyzen, and Evomove over the last 18 months have further cemented their growth trajectory, along with investments into cutting-edge child development and sustainability strategies.

In the Toy industry, rental services are going through a period of accelerated growth, particularly in the US market, as consumers seek to reduce their overall spend and enter into a more sustainable pattern of behaviour. A model which has already seen strong success in the UK and China. Three more major trends we’re seeing again point to digital, with marketing functions increasing their investment in affiliate/influencer marketing, largely thanks to the unboxing craze. As well as consumers seeking educational toys (a market forecast to grow by $24bn in the period 2020-2024), which often works hand-in-hand with technologically advanced toys, such as iPads and other tablets, with the ability to purchase educational apps.

During Q1, our Nursery & Toy team visited key industry events, including the Nuremberg International Toy Fair, and the Toy Fair in London, to discuss trends in the market and personnel plans for Q3. In particular, the upcoming quarter will see MacGregor Black supporting our partners across Sales, Marketing, Supply Chain, and Operations, with new roles due to be released steadily throughout the year, as well as a number of confidential headhunts that are ongoing.

Throughout Q2, our practice has begun new partnerships with a number of leading brands in Scandinavia and Australia, with a large number of projects ongoing throughout Q3 and Q4. Our team is also supporting two new clients in APAC who are looking to build out their UK Sales teams, with new roles to be released throughout Q3 and Q4.

If you’d like to discuss our support on a current or future role, or are looking for your next career move, get in touch with our dedicated Nursery & Toy Practice today via hello@macgregorblack.com or by calling +44 (0)191 691 1949

Fashion, Luxury, Practice Review

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Luxury is once again on the move.

An industry ever-evolving to not only meet demand but also shape it, is in the midst of large-scale change.

From footwear to face masks and t-shirts to trench coats, luxury is everywhere. Over the last few years in particular, fashion has flooded into all levels of consumer. Where previously, luxury pieces we’re exclusive, aspirational, and often unattainable objects, a number of factors has led to fashion entering into all facets of life.

Not simply satisfied with owning a piece of luxury, many consumers have actively sought heavily branded, instantly recognisable, and exclusive items, such as FOG, Off-White, Gucci, Louis Vuitton, and Air Jordans, to name just a few brands.

In what is now a market heavily saturated with luxury, we’re seeing many fashion brands begin their plans to pull away from the boom in fashion’s merge with activewear/streetwear, and pivot toward what is considered ‘old money’. Brands such as Sporty & Rich, ALD, and Kith have pioneered the movement and many are preparing to follow suit. We’re managing a sharp increase in demand for marketing, sales, product, design, and buying/merchandising professionals with previous experience in ‘old money’ style luxury, with quality of materials, design principles, cohesive collections, sustainability, and modern minimalism all at the forefront.

Talented experiential/retail professionals are still also in high-demand, as many of our clients seek to elevate and differentiate their in-store experiences. Similarly, design/packaging teams are coming under a renewed focus across many of our European clients, with a number of team builds taking place in Q3 of this year, to fulfil the increased consumer desire for an improved experience, whilst also balancing sustainability goals/quotas. Companies such as John Lewis are continuing their ‘multi-sensory’ in-store offerings, an Inditex-owned Zara have reported a 17.5% jump in revenue following their brand repositioning last year.

Companies such as Birkenstock and Prada started the year strong, with the former celebrating the launch of a new headquarters. Birkenstock is set to base their new HQ in Amsterdam, recently dubbed an emerging fashion hub, a suspected strategic move as the business aims to access a wider pool of international candidates, and strategically strengthen their shipping and logistics capabilities. Whereas, Prada are celebrating a reported 21% increase in revenue, now topping €4.2billion. Many clients are also closely watching events unfold in the nearby Sports & Outdoor industry, as brands such as Nike continue to pursue a DTC model, with varying results.

During the first half of the year, we have successfully delivered urgent projects, within short delivery times, on behalf of a number of new clients in both the UK and Europe, including several immediately available, interim management positions in HR and Product Development. Q2 saw the release of numerous data analytics roles as we support a long-standing European partner’s planned growth phase, as well as priority vacancies across Sales and Ecommerce in particular.

During the second half of the year, our practice have a wide range of projects including international market maps, new talent partnerships in Holland and the US, and new roles available daily through our network of clients in the UK and wider Europe.

We are also pleased to announce that during Q2, our dedicated practice grew with the addition of James Westwood, who leads the recruitment of management & executive level finance professionals in both UK & International markets. James holds over a decade of experience as a professional Golfer, followed by roles in Financial Services and is supporting our network of clients through end-to-end vacancy management, team builds, talent mapping, competitor benchmarking, and international relocation.

If you’d like to discuss our support on a current or future role, or are looking for your next career move, get in touch with our dedicated Fashion & Luxury Practice today via hello@macgregorblack.com or by calling +44 (0)191 691 1949

Health & Beauty, Practice Review

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The ‘Lipstick Effect’ shows no signs of slowing.

An economic term originating from the health and beauty industry’s unwavering resistance to a drop in disposable income, the industry remains resilient as many experience drastic shifts in consumer behaviour.

We’re seeing recent trends continue to solidify themselves in the market, such as the desire for a true multi-brand shopping experience, with a wide range of products, price points, and producers available ‘under one roof’. Retailers such as Sephora are experiencing particularly successful periods due to wide scale investment across physical activations (opening their flagship UK retail store in London’s Westfield shopping centre), digital campaigns, sustainability efforts, and new partnerships with brands such as TikTok and Haus Labs by Lady Gaga.

Other trends we are seeing continue to gather pace include subscription services such as Glossier, the conscious movement toward more clean beauty and B Corps, and the rise of the indie brand. Where although L’Oreal dominates market share, particularly in Western Europe, consumer remain open to new brands, largely driven thanks to effective marketing, influencer, and WoM campaigns. A trend we’re further developing within a large number of our clients’ Sales and Marketing functions.

Legacy trends from Covid, such as the demand for ‘at home’ alternatives, are continuing to solidify themselves in the market. Many have successfully integrated technology into their products, with both new hardware and software. Software such as AI has revolutionised the shopping experience allowing for greater customisation, reduced lead times, and lower return rates, creating an overall improved customer experience.

Another factor continuing to drive considerable consumer and manufacturer decision making during Q1 was sustainability. The rise of B corps in the industry being a prime example, with our consultants supporting a number of client’s sustainability and ethics plans through much of Q2. Support ranges from consultations, talent management, vacancy management, up to full team builds, within NPD, HR, Sustainability & Ethics Specialists, and Sustainable Packaging, across Europe and the US in particular.

During Q2 of this year, our dedicated practice began a range of new partnerships, working on retained propjects with brands in the UK, France, and Australia, as well as supporting long-standing clients in the US.

Strong talent pipelines have been built to support a number of long-term projects in Q3, with a number of exciting Commercial, eCommerce, and Operations roles set to be released, and several interim contracts being managed by our practice.

Our consultants have attended both physical and virtual events at the beginning of the year, including an event in London, for female founders, discussing challenges in the market and supporting start-ups to multinational SME’s, as well as the Clean Beauty Awards, and conducting an MB Talks with Nordic Beauty Expert, Jennifer Carlsson.

If you’d like to discuss our support on a current or future role, or are looking for your next career move, get in touch with our dedicated Health & Beauty Practice today via hello@macgregorblack.com or by calling +44 (0)191 691 1949