The CEO of Bundaberg Brewed Drinks, John Mclean

The CEO of Bundaberg Brewed Drinks, John Mclean

This week, we speak to the CEO of Bundaberg Brewed Drinks, and just-drinks subscriber, John Mclean.

  • How long have you been working in the drinks industry?

It's been around 20 years now. I've worked my way through the business from unloading trucks to brewing, finance, IT and logistics. I have been managing Bundaberg Ginger Beer for 18 years and became CEO in 2007. During this time, the business has nearly tripled in sales and volume.

  • Who was your mentor when you started? What did they teach you?

My father-in-law, Cliff Fleming, was my mentor when I first started in the business. His greatest advice was to believe in yourself and "just keep going - never give up". He instilled the strong belief that we have the best product in the world - our challenge is ensuring we get it in front of people.

  • How has the industry changed during your time in it?

Over the last 20 years, I have seen monumental change. The technological leap has been enormous in making the world smaller. Our people are now accessible around the world 24/7, which is important as we now export into over 30 countries. The transformation of how consumers communicate has dramatically changed our marketing programmes and focus. In the Australian FMCG industry, we have seen dramatic change in the retail landscape. Today, the industry is a lot more sophisticated than when I started.

  • What do you like most/least about your job?

I love meeting new consumers and partners around the world who share the growing love of our brand. Additionally, the challenges, excitement and passion of our staff invigorate me as they become excited about seeing our brand pop up in far-flung places around the world. The parts I dislike the most are the long plane delays and remembering passwords.

  • What are the main challenges facing the industry today? How would you combat them?

The major challenges are around the changing lifestyles of all consumers and how we navigate and adapt our business to suit these changes. The technological challenge is trying to keep abreast of the constant changes in the digital and social media space. Staying connected with our consumers in this changing landscape is a constant challenge.

  • What keeps you awake at night?

Capacity and people keeps me awake at night. As a family business, I feel huge responsibility towards our team as they are like extended family. As we are experiencing continued growth, capacity constraints are always top of mind.

  • What do you think has been the most exciting innovation in the industry?

The phenomenal growth of the energy sector lead by Red Bull demonstrated the power of astute marketing in a key emerging sector. As well as this, the extraordinary change Facebook has brought to our lives and how the media landscape has transformed, which together has changed the way we talk to consumers forever.

  • Which drinks company (apart from the one you are employed by) do you most admire?

Coopers Brewery based in Adelaide, South Australia, has always been a company I’ve admired. They maintained their old-fashioned brewing techniques when competitors abandoned them. Their Sparkling Ale (Red Label) has always been my favourite beer.

  • Who or what has been the greatest influence on your career in the industry?

Kelly Clay from Admiral Beverages in Wyoming. Kelly has become a great friend and supporter of our brand.

  • What's your favourite drink?

Bundaberg Ginger Beer of course! The taste is unique, owed to being made with real ginger and carefully brewed for over three days in a family-owned brewery. A five-step brewing process, using ginger and cane sugar sourced from the Bundaberg region, creates the natural flavours of the drink.

  • And your favourite drink that is not in your company's portfolio?

Laphroaig single malt.

What has been the most peculiar situation that your job has put you in?

Downtown Bucharest is the strangest location my job has taken me. Although the most peculiar situation was coming face-to-face with a billboard of my face in Illinois, thanks to the global "Glass is Life" campaign. No one should ever see themselves that big!

  • Where do you see yourself in ten years time?

Still going strong, visiting new customers around the world and working with my family and friends.