Your Neighbourhood Brewer
26 April 2019
By becoming president, general director, and shareholder of Brasseurs du Nord, Sébastien Paradis poked the white bear (the brand’s logo) and brought innovation back to the forefront of the brewery’s strategy.
With 20 years experience as a brand development specialist for Oakley, Red Bull, and Burton Canada, Sébastien Paradis was a little frightened by the idea of becoming an entrepreneur. Until a headhunter approached him to take the reins of Brasseurs du Nord.
“I wanted to invest, and I was becoming more and more interested in the microbrewery phenomenon happening in Quebec. The size (150 employees) and the regionality of the business convinced me. I didn’t want to live in a suitcase anymore. I could take on a new challenge and be close to my family”, says Paradis, who accepted the CEO position in May of 2016, the same week his spouse gave birth to twins.
Another non-negotiable: majority shareholder, the FTQ fund, was giving him carte blanche to do what was necessary to reverse the decline of the company that had once been innovative. A trailblazer, this brewery was the first to introduce amber beer to the Quebec market, in 1988, the same goes for IPA in 2011. “The board of directors saw that the brand had lost its sparkle throughout the years, despite their products remaining solid. I think the executives were looking for a brand specialist, ideally from the beverage industry. I really liked the company’s history and values, which they had failed to convey to the public. I saw potential to put them back on the map.”
Sébastien Paradis repositioned the brand (by bringing back the bear, and making it the focus) and launched a new creative beer program for bars and restaurants.
“Innovation had always been a part of the Boréale brewery’s DNA. All I had to do was revive it. Just what the team and master brewer had been waiting for.”
A innovation committee was put into place and this president made sure that his team consisted of passionate, creative people. “When I got there, I saw that the organization worked like a big company with management committees, senior managers, etc. I striped away the hierarchy so that everyone could share their opinions and ideas. We might make mistakes along the way, but we’ll learn from them, and at least we’ll be able to say that we tried!”
Bringing people together
To highlight the 30 year anniversary of the brewery, the CEO opened Relais Boréale, a boutique-bar located at the head office where they organize events, and offer exclusive products to customers. “I realized while eating lunch in restaurants near the office, that no one knew what I meant when I said I was from the neighbourhood brewery. I saw that the company wasn’t part of the community at all. It was time to shed some light on the local artisans making beer in Blainville, by creating a brand experience on site.”
Now that he has consolidated his team and put innovation at the forefront, this entrepreneur says he is ready to diversify the beverages they offer, through partners and acquisitions, and develop the nearby markets such as Ontario, Atlantic Canada, and North Eastern United States. “Our brewing equipment will allow us to do a lot of things in the beverage industry. I’m currently looking at all the possibilities. We are evolving in a period where the industry is romanticized: there are a lot of microbreweries at the moment that will consolidate in the next few years.”