During the nineties ales were declining in popularity. Seen as an old man’s drink, the ale industry was struggling to compete with the marketing budgets of large beer brewers. Companies like Carlsberg and Heineken were dominating the marketing and many pubs had specific deals with breweries making them unable to serve anything else.
So, the rise in the popularity of craft beer might be unlikely. But through a combination of unique marketing choices, a huge number of enthusiastic producers, and the changing drinking market, things have changed. Here we take a look at how craft beer was able to become so huge.
There’s no doubt that what has made craft beer stand out from traditional brands is its innovative approach to packaging and branding. Labels and cans are designed in highly creative ways with everything from outrageously colorful designs, to cans that would not look out of place at a minimalist art gallery.
These designs have certainly struck a chord with buyers – with supermarket shelves now stocked with a truly enormous variety of styles. It has helped to make craft beer stand out from its competition and be instantly recognizable for consumers.
Easy market entry
Perhaps one of the major reasons that craft beer has been able to rise to fast and so successfully is the fact that it has been very easy to enter the marketplace with new products. The glut of new products has provided the market with almost endless variety and ensured that competition is very high; bringing the cream to the top.
Brewing craft beer can be accomplished easily at home with very little need for expensive equipment or machinery. And there are many companies offering canning services with very small minimum orders, making them ideal for fledgling craft beer producers.
“Our business provides canning services to food and beverages across the UK, and we have seen a marked rise in the number of craft beer producers coming to us,” said Matthew Day, Managing Director of Innovus Engineering. “These microbreweries often have very specific requirements and we are happy to provide them”. This has meant that almost anyone can open up their own microbrewery.
The statistics back this up too. According to a report from the Brewers of Europe in the last ten years the number of breweries across the EU has risen by 6,000 to a total of almost 9,500 – and around three-quarters of those 9,500 are microbreweries and small and medium sized businesses (SMEs).
Micropubs and craft beer specialists
There have been some alarming numbers for drinkers in recent years. For example, a report from the Campaign for Real Ale (Camra) has claimed that the number of pubs closing is around 18 per week in the UK. Expensive premises as well a number of taxes aimed at the alcohol industry have been blamed, as well as changing customer tastes.
But it is certainly not the beer that’s the problem. To fill the place of these closing pubs there has been an explosion in the number of so-called micropubs – small establishments specializing in the sale of local craft beers. According to the UK Micropub Association there are at least 350 across the country. And while craft beer producers may have struggled to get their products sold in traditional brewery-owned and chain pubs, micropubs have far more versatility in what they are able to offer to their customers.
This has really helped to cement craft beer as a choice for discerning drinkers, as they can be enjoyed both at home or out.
Has craft beer peaked?
There is, however, some suggestion that the rise of craft beer is coming to an end, and popularity may have peaked. According to stats from UHY Hacker Young, the number of craft breweries has nearly doubled in the last five years to 2,274. And whilst this might sound like good news, if you look a little closer at the numbers you will see that between 2016 and 2017 the number of brewers rose by 309 to 2,266, while between 2017 and 2018 the number rose by just eight.
There is still growth in the sector and new breweries are opening, but it is the case that marketplace has become extremely crowded and demand has not matched the number of new businesses. This doesn’t necessarily have to be a bad thing – the factor of quality has sometimes been called into question by experienced breweries when assessing their craft brew competition. At the market naturally thins out, the best beer producers will remain.