Underdog brewery wins hearts of young drinkers with creative biz tactics

Underdog brewery wins hearts of young drinkers with creative biz tactics

Local brewery The Satellite Brewing Company collaborated with Samyang’s Spicy Buldak Ramen to release Buldak Mango Ale. Courtesy of The Satellite Brewing Company

Beer startup CEO launches beer for outer space with unique recipesBy Lee Gyu-leeWhen Daehan Flour Mills, in collaboration with the local beer manufacturing company, Sevenbrau Beer, launched the beer, Gompyo Wheat Beer, named after the former’s main flour brand, last May, the new beer created a craze among younger drinkers, clearing out its initial 100,000 in stock in just four days. Within five months of its launch, the beer has sold more than one million units and topped beer sections at local convenience stores. The beer brand has outperformed even the beers produced by the top breweries. Following Gompyo Wheat Beer’s phenomenal success, brewing companies, one after another, have partnered with other companies to launch unique and trendy collaborative beers to win the hearts of the MZ Generation, who are keen on new experiences and trends. Amid the growing competition among small breweries, local brewery The Satellite Brewing Company stood out in the public eye, garnering popularity with its Beer with Whelk, followed by its chewing gum-flavored Juicy Fresh Beer. The company teamed up with top canned whelk maker Yoo Dong to release Beer with Whelk, dedicated to pairing with canned whelk (known in Korean as “golbaengi”), last November. It soon became the most sold beer at 7-Eleven convenience stores, which handed down the title to the brewery’s other collaborative beer, Juicy Fresh Beer, released this March, after joining hands with Lotte Foods’ fruity chewing gum brand.

Underdog brewery wins hearts of young drinkers with creative biz tactics

A picture of the brewing company’s beer taken in the stratosphere / Courtesy of The Satellite Brewing Company

As its name ― The Satellite Brewing Company, which started as a brewpub in 2017 ― indicates, the brewery has taken a rather unusual approach in the industry, using the concept of outer space for its brand marketing and unveiling a unique line of products.The company teamed up with NARA Space Technology to shoot one of its products up into space ― 43.5 kilometers into the stratosphere ― through a helium balloon, last April, as a part of its marketing campaign. “‘Brewing Your Dream’ is our company’s slogan. We took our imagination and brewed it into reality with Juicy Fresh Beer, just like how space used to be a vague imagination. But as technology developed, it has become much closer to our reality,” Jeon Dong-keun, the CEO and founder of the company, said in an interview with The Korea Times, Tuesday. “The world of beer is just as endless and unknown as the world of space. And our company seeks to take one step forward at a time to explore and make them realizable.”The 28-year-old CEO said that he has always been keen on finding his own way in business since high school, organizing paid events, and raising funding after coming up with his own business model. After joining the Korea division of SAGE, a global entrepreneurship program for high school students, he came to connect with leading entrepreneurs who would provide mentorship to him.

Underdog brewery wins hearts of young drinkers with creative biz tactics

Jeon Dong-keun, the CEO and founder of the company, opened his own brewing business in 2017. Courtesy of The Satellite Brewing Company

“(Going through those experiences,) I just vaguely made up my mind to start my own business after college. I didn’t know what and how but I knew I was going to,” he said. Towards his last year in Kalamazoo College in Michigan, where he studied Economics, he found his vision in the craft beer business. “When I analyzed the consumer market, I noticed there are different businesses that are timely for each year… and by the time I graduated in 2016, the trend of that year was beer,” he said. Having no prior knowledge of beer brewing, he explained that he chose beer thorough research on the beer market and took a strategic approach, using his economics background, in making the decision. Taking the history of the U.S. beer market as an example, he saw potential in Korea’s market to grow.”It was just my general faith, without really knowing whether it would work out or not… But after I analyzed the reasons the beer market has not been booming in Korea, and ways to make it happen, I came to the conclusion that I could do it,” he said.

Underdog brewery wins hearts of young drinkers with creative biz tactics

The brewery launched collaborative beer products, Beer with Whelk, left, and Juicy Fresh Beer. Courtesy of The Satellite Brewing Company

As he was confident of his decision, he wasted no time in gearing up for his new business. After graduating from college, he went on a quest to experience as many breweries and types of beer as he could. He spent three weeks in Europe to visit about 90 breweries across the region, visiting six to 10 breweries a day. “I considered everything I saw as information that I needed and studied everything that I came across. It was because I needed to collect as much information as I could in a short period of time, as there weren’t many resources in Korea,” Jeon said. Around that time, he met Joe Short, the founder of the Michigan-based Short’s Brewing Company, after he contacted Short for help in launching his beer business in Korea. Jeon said that his pitch about sending beer into outer space captured Short’s interest. “Short then asked me what my next move would be and what I would need from him to take a step forward in accomplishing my goal,” he said. “First, I asked him if I could learn at his brewery, telling him to think of me as additional labor because I’d be working for free. And secondly, I asked him to come over and help me with opening up my brewery.”

Underdog brewery wins hearts of young drinkers with creative biz tactics

The Satellite Brewing Company started as a brewpub in 2017 and still runs its own pub in Geumcheon-gu, southern Seoul. Courtesy of The Satellite Brewing Company

After spending about a year at the brewery, going back and forth between it and Korea, he came to obtain extensive knowledge in beer, and diverse recipes that vary through even slight differences in the brewing process. Using what he learned, he opened his brewery, intending to take recipes he learned in the U.S. and localize them to suit the taste of consumers in Korea.”When we develop a new product, we focus on how to maximize things like the flavor, aroma and level of bitterness that Koreans usually prefer,” he said. Just when he grew comfortable in adjusting and arranging ingredients to create his own recipes, Jeon took on another challenge: expanding his draft beer business to manufacturing canned beer. “The canned beer market was getting bigger, so I thought, ‘Now is the time to join,'” he said. “And it was also the time when companies from different industries were coming together to make collaborative products. So I sought out other companies to collaborate with.”So he came up with the idea to launch a new line of beer that would go well with the whelk dish ― which is known in Korea as a dish to pair with beer ― with the number one canned whelk brand. The brewery now has several more lines of beer from collaborations with different food brands, including Samyang’s Spicy Buldak Ramen.

Underdog brewery wins hearts of young drinkers with creative biz tactics

A picture of the brewery, located in Geumcheon-gu, southern Seoul / Courtesy of The Satellite Brewing Company

The company is set to welcome its third brewery facility ― opening in Boryeong, South Chungcheong Province ― this month. The new facility will allow it to further expand its line of products, even including non-alcoholic beverages. The enthusiastic, goal-driven CEO expressed that he hopes continuously to take on new challenges, like joining the competitive global beer market one day and becoming the first Korean to embark on SpaceX. “Since we localized beer recipes from overseas, re-adjusting them to target the overseas market won’t be so difficult. And along the way, we might come up with some sort of hybrid recipe,” he said. “In terms of food and drink culture, beer also falls into the category of ‘culture…’ And as Korean culture has become more and more relevant to people around the world through leading entertainment like K-pop and K-drama, I think we can also have a chance to take the lead in introducing K-food and drinks globally, as well.” When asked if he is ever afraid of failing, Jeon noted that he has gone through a change in mindset recently. “In the past, I used to be scared of failing, because I took success and failure as two different things. But now, my belief has changed: it’s not a failure unless you give up,” he said. “You will succeed eventually… it’s all a matter of how persistent you are to get through the bumpy roads toward bringing your dreams to reality.”

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