Views from the Top: Matt Starbuck


Ever wondered who’s behind the brands that you sell? Here’s the final of nine of Scotland’s drinks bosses, Matt Starbuck, Managing Director, Greene King and Belhaven, Brewing & Brands, with his plans for 2020, including a steer on what he thinks you should be doing with your business.


You’ve been Managing Director Brewing and Brands since August 2018 – what do you most enjoy about it?

No day is the same. I can be discussing malted barley prices, the benefits of some new brewing technology or approving new innovative beers one day and meeting export customers in Russia the next. We are a manufacturer and a global sales and distribution business so there is always variety to the job.

Why the drinks industry and what do you love about it?

Who doesn’t love beer? Fresh cask beer is our national drink and something totally unique to the UK. As an industry we are always innovating and I love the pace, excitement and challenges that brings.

How do you plan to drive the business forward in 2020?

Listen to my team! They’re a talented bunch and have some great investment plans to keep our brands at the forefront of drinkers minds as well as the energy to get some exciting new ideas into market this year. Continuing to raise the visibility of our newer styles of beer both domestically and in export markets will be a key drive as well as finding new ways for drinkers to engage with, or reappraise some of our established favourites. We will also continue to invest in quality both in the brewhouse and throughout the supply chain to the point of dispense so that as we grow there is no compromise in the drinking experience.

What is the best stress-buster when things get particularly challenging?

Last year for Belhaven Brewery’s 300th birthday I cycled along with 18 colleagues 420 miles between our brewery in Bury St Edmunds to Belhaven Brewery in Dunbar, in aid of Macmillian Cancer Support. Getting on your bike and training is cathartic as it gives you the time to think whilst taking in the fresh air. I’ve continued to cycle a lot since. I also love live music; anything that’s new and indie so try to get to gigs most months.

Which piece of advice would you pass on to licensees that are looking to grow their business?

Know your customer. It might seem a cliché but that’s often where consumer businesses fall down. Consumers love to try new things but equally are loyal to brands they know and love. So I’d say when it comes to beers on the bar, keep the favourites on there, the crowd pleasers that customers love such as Belhaven Best, Scotland’s number one ale; but also rotate in some new and exciting beers. For example, seasonal beers that appeal to customers at particular times of the year such as Belhaven’s Grand Slam, for the Six Nations.. At Belhaven, our Twisted Thistle range has won awards for its changing flavoured beers including Twisted Grapefruit IPA, perfect for summer.

If you had a pub what would you call it and why?

The All Inn. A place that welcomes everybody with the freshest ales, simple pub dishes and plenty of gigs.

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