Sapporo-Stone Brewing promotes CEO from within

The country’s 12th largest beer concern removes interim tag, moves forward with former CFO at the wheel

In January, Sapporo-Stone Brewing officials embarked on a search for a new chief executive officer to replace outgoing CEO Maria Stipp, following her departure from the company after more than three years at the helm. The company – the 12th largest brewing concern in the country by production volume in 2023, according to national trade organization, the Brewers Association – fielded numerous candidates coming from far and wide, but at the end of the day, their ideal choice was already within Team Stone’s ranks.

Today, Sapporo-Stone announced Zach Keeling has been promoted to CEO. It’s a position he has held on an interim basis since January. Prior to that, Keeling served as the company’s Chief Financial Officer and Vice President of Strategy, and played an integral role in a recently unveiled $60 million expansion project that greatly enhanced Sapporo-Stone’s production and packaging capabilities at its Escondido facility. Those and other large-scale improvements being made at the company’s East Coast headquarters in Richmond, Virginia, will allow for the brewing of all Sapporo beer to take place domestically by summer’s end, while doubling the company’s total production capacity to 700,000 barrels annually. 

Zach Keeling
Sapporo-Stone Brewing CEO Zach Keeling

Having earned an accounting degree from Miami University of Ohio and a Masters of Business Administration degree from Harvard University, Keeling entered the healthcare industry, where he worked as a financial analyst for Baxter Healthcare for four years before taking a similar job at Stone Brewing in 2015. It was the first of two stretches of employment with the company, the second of which kicked off with Keeling’s appointment to Vice President of Strategy in October of 2022. 

His five years of experience with the company – both in its original, independent form and as a cornerstone of parent company Sapporo USA, which acquired Stone in August of 2022 – provide added faith to those who selected him to shepherd the company moving forward.

“Sapporo-Stone is on an impressive trajectory, and I’m honored to lead this talented team toward becoming a top 10 brewery by volume in the U.S.,” said Keeling. “I’m committed to driving our growth while prioritizing people and culture.”

Sapporo-Stone currently employs 850 people. Under Keeling’s predecessor they saw much change. Stipp took over for outgoing CEO Dominic Engels following his resignation in August 2020, arriving with experience gained at large companies, including Miller Brewing, Kellogg’s, ecoATM and Activision. Prior to joining Stone, she served as CEO for Lagunitas Brewing, during which she oversaw the 2017 sale of the Petaluma-based craft brewery to Heineken. That experience served her well during the business dealings that led to Sapporo’s acquisition of then 26-year-old Stone.

One of Keeling’s primary focuses will be the continued growth of Sapporo-Stone’s “craft-meets-import” portfolio, which has demonstrated growth over the past year, one which proved particularly challenging for most in the beer industry. Sales of Sapporo – the top-selling Asian beer brand in the U.S. – were up 14.6% over the past year according to NielsenIQ scan data, which is 5.4% higher than the growth of the Import category. Meanwhile, sales of Stone’s core brands were also up by 12.5%.

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