Your face on a six-pack. It’s the beer enthusiast’s five minutes of fame. And, it’s one way that Peak Brewing Company is attracting customers and distinguishing itself in a marketplace which up until a few years ago saw little demand for organic craft beer.

Brewing started as a hobby for Peak’s CEO Jon Cadoux. Using local organic ingredients from small farmers in his native Maine, Cadoux said he worked to create recipes that would enhance the freshness and quality of his home brews. Over ten years, the hobby grew into a full-fledged brewing-and-bottling facility that now boasts seven varieties of organic beer.

Cadoux said the company has no trouble keeping customers coming back once they’ve tried its brews such as the Pomegranate Wheat Ale with Acai, or Espresso Amber Ale. The harder part, he said, is getting first-timers to choose a Peak Brew over your old-school six-pack at the local grocery store.

“Consumers need a reason to buy. They make a decision in five minutes. We need to communicate what it is that is different about our brand in those five minutes,” said Cadoux. 

Peak Brew engages its audience by inviting them to share stories and photos of their “peak” moments in life. In addition to posting these moments on its Web site and newsletter, Peak also chooses certain pictures to be featured on packaging. It’s an approach that Cadoux said helps Peak stay in-tune with customers, and gives customers an inside look into the Peak Brewing way of life.

QUESTION: How did people first perceive Peak Brews?

CADOUX: In the very beginning people were puzzled by our product because consumers were not asking for organic beer. Between 2004 and 2005 we saw it gaining momentum. Distributors started becoming aware of organic beer and looking for products that filled the profile. 

QUESTION: In order for a beer to be stamped organic, its ingredients must be 95 percent organic. Where do your ingredients come from?

CADOUX: Our beer is 99.6 percent organic. We work with local artisanal farmers, but our growth has forced us to source elsewhere, too. All Peak Beer is brewed with organic hops that come from Maine, Washington state and New Zealand.  

QUESTION: Where do you sell your beer?

CADOUX: We are in beer stores, grocery stores and bodegas everywhere from Maine to Florida on the East Coast and in a couple states in the Midwest. One-third of our business comes from restaurants and bars. Restaurant and bar owners recognize the importance of sourcing locally.  That has been nice for us and a heck of a lot easier than approaching a grocery chain manager.

QUESTION: According to Nutrition Business Journal research, U.S. consumer sales of organic beer grew 21 percent to $41 million in 2008. How much has Peak Brewing grown and where do you see the company going?

CADOUX: This year sales are up 72 percent. Last year, we were up 64 percent. We want to keep growing 50 to 100 percent each year. In terms of national growth, we approach states one at a time. For now, we are focusing on increasing in-store sales in the markets we are already in.

QUESTION: What has contributed to your success?

CADOUX: In our industry you have to do 4 things well to succeed: 1) You have to make a superior product. Craft beer has to be spectacular. 2) Your packaging has to draw customers. 3) You have to have an event marketing presence. We need to get our beer in consumers hands as often as possible. We go to wine and food events, to festivals and environmental events so we can teach people about the brand. 4) You have to harness the power of the internet. A lot of companies don’t understand how to take advantage of social networking. It is about developing a relationship with the consumer and helping them understand what the company is about. We use our Facebook page, Twitter, our Web site and our newsletter to give people a peek into our lives.

QUESTION: What is the biggest mistake you have made?

CADOUX: Underestimating how important distribution is. We didn’t understand the power of distribution and how critical distributors are to the brand. With one of our first distributors, we shipped him the product and said, "Good luck with this," and not a whole lot happened.

You really have to indoctrinate distributors and retailers to your brand. Now our sales force sits down with distributors and we do a presentation and sample the products.  We get in the car and spend a day with them selling the brand. For the first couple of hours we are selling the brand and they are watching us.

QUESTION: Which is your best-seller and which is your favorite brew?

CADOUX: Our best-sellers are the IPA and the Pale Ale.  My favorite is our IPA.