Great Western Brewing Company Limited

Saskatoon, Saskatchewan

Number of employees:  100

Beer producer and marketer

President and CEO: Ron Waldman

Primary markets:  Saskatchewan



Entrepreneurs hoist a pint


The Canadian beer market has traditionally been identified with two names: Labatt and Molson. But in recent years, smaller breweries have been making inroads. In few places has that trend been more evident than in Saskatchewan, where in the early 1990s, a group of employees took an ageing factory slated to be mothballed following the Molson-O’Keefe merger and turned it into what its current president calls a “regional brewery.”


“Right now micro-breweries are a visible part of the industry landscape, but that wasn’t the case when we began operating as an independent. The good news is that our arrival coincided with increasing consumer demands for more choice,” says Ron Waldman, president of Great Western Brewing Company Limited. “But we had a big challenge convincing people that ours was a viable business option.”


Today there is little doubt. Great Western Brewing Company currently produces a full line of beer products under brand names such as Great Western, Brewhouse and Olympia to name a few. Waldman, who brought extensive consumer products and beverage industry experience to the table when he joined Great Western in 1994, attributes the company’s success to several factors.


“We quickly realized that the massive block-long plant we inherited had lots of excess capacity and that we needed to make better use of it,” said Waldman, who along with Vaughn Wyant and Maurice Duval, forms the trio of principal investors in a business that also boasts substantial employee ownership. The management group decided to get into private label manufacturing, packing and distribution, to help absorb some of the company’s substantial overhead.


However such a large plant also brought key advantages. For example Great Western is one of the few independent breweries that has the clout to take on the majors in the value beer category, while at the same time marketing offerings in the premium and super-premium categories.


But beer is a game of inches. As a result, according to Waldman, the company’s main goal is to remain focused on attracting one new customer at a time. “We recently obtained pouring rights at the Credit Union Center, which will get us thousands of new customers,” says Waldman with a wistful sigh. “But those sorts of deals don’t happen every day.”




#Photos: File photo of Ron Waldman exists in NP archives


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