The virtue of vicious competition

Competition is fierce in the hop industry. I watched the movie Founder a couple weeks ago. There are so many similarities between things that happened in the movie and things I see happening in the hop industry. The following quote symbolizes the competition, visceral hatred and greed that we see from time to time.


“It’s a dog eat dog and a rat eat rat world, and if I saw my competitor drowning I’d stick a hose in his mouth …”

     – Michael Keaton as Ray Kroc from the movie Founder


That may sound a little extreme at first. It may make millions of movie goers think that Ray Kroc was an evil man. I’m sure there are growers who would stick that hose down their competitors’ throat. I know merchants feel this way about other merchants. I’d like to think I have not let what seems to be the dark side of the hop industry, and business, affect me. I suppose I have though … by necessity. The force is strong. When I heard that quote, I thought, “Yep, that’s probably not far from the truth.” There … I said it. Mind you, growers and merchants work with each other every day, also out of necessity. It’s a small industry. Hops make for strange bedfellows.

The hop industry is fierce like that … seriously. I often think to myself how nice it must be that the craft brewing industry has not yet turned so fiercely competitive. Perhaps it already has among the largest craft brewers who are competing for shelf space with discount pricing and slotting fees. Perhaps it will someday too amongst smaller craft brewers … if they are lucky.

It is exactly that fierce competitiveness that keeps people on their toes. Knowing your competitor will stick that hose down your throat if they get the chance, keeps you aware of the consequences of gluttony and laziness. The person who takes the time to sit back and admire how clever they are because they have been successful, regardless of whether they are a grower, merchant or a brewer is the one who fails because these things apply to business in general. While you’re sitting back thinking about how well you have done, you watch the competition pass right by. The sloppiness and gluttony that can happen in the absence of such fierce competitiveness encourages mistakes. People get lazy. Scarcity creates an instinct for survival that we all need to thrive. It makes us try new things. We become more efficient through experimentation. For that reason, even the fiercest of competition is a very good thing.