Craft beer not in crisis but major U.S. craft breweries

“Craft beer is not on the retreat. The sector is still growing and alive”. These were the two main statements of Chuck Skypeck, Technical Brewing Projects Manager of the Brewers Association, in a highly regarded lecture on hot topics in craft brewing. He presented yesterday his findings, which contrast recent press articles, during the 5th VLB European MicroBrew Symposium 2016, just before the Brau Beviale fair in Nuremberg.

Skypeck could show, that craft beer is still the fastest growing U.S. beer market segment with a share of 11% (2014) and is expected to grow up to 22% in 2022. Light beer with 52% (2014) has reached its peak and is projected to go back slighty to 48% in 2022. Biggest looser is the so called domestic beer segment which was the dominant beer category in the last century with 99% of all  beers sold in the U.S. in 1970. Sales of domestic beers are now down to 24% (2014) and will most likely fall even further to 17% in 2022. Imported beer with 13% (2014) of the whole market is expected to remain stable in the near future.

Skypeck could also proof his positive outlook for the craft segment, which contrasts the recent negative news of the industry. He presented the results of a survey asking how important “local” is in purchasing decisions.  45% of all beer drinkers in the U.S. state that a local origin is either very or at least somewhat important to them. This clearly indicates a shift away from large national to more local brands. It becomes even more evident, if you look at the craft beer figures. 67% of all craft beer drinkers prefer a local production with even a higher preference of 71% in the young age category of consumers aged 21 to 34.

The recent layoffs and cutbacks of some larger U.S. craft breweries like Boston Beer, Redhook Ale and Stone Brewing seem to verify this thesis. Not craft beer is in crisis but large craft breweries that have outgrown their home basis. New craft breweries with a stronger local reference can gain a much higher credibility with consumers and will eat into sales of the former market heroes.

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