Crafty marketing could push European brewers out of US market

By Caroline Scott-Thomas

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags: Beer, International trade

European beer exporters risk being squeezed out of the US market as Americans increasingly turn away from well-known European brands in favour of locally produced ‘craft’ beers.

Sales of European beers look to have stalled in recent years and analysis suggests that one reason for this could be the rise of real ale brands, known as ‘craft’ beers in the States.

According to Euromonitor research analyst Roman Shuster, the problem for European exporters lies in stale marketing, but he emphasises the need to differentiate between the two most popular European beers consumed in the States - Corona and Heineken -and smaller European exporters.

He told BeverageDaily.com: “The shrinking share for imports is coming from the big time brands, Corona and Heineken. It’s driven by the fact that they are not new, unique or different. Once they became top ten brands, their difference was eroded.”

On the other hand, he said that the appeal of craft beers is in the variety on offer and, with more than 3000 craft breweries in the US, they have more opportunity to stand out as something new. This is where he feels there is still opportunity for European beer exporters to make their mark.

Marketing focus

“Corona got to where it is through iconic advertising but it hasn’t changed for many years,”​ he said. “Stella Artois has done well in the last three years because it is cool, new and interesting and that reflects on you. It is important to maintain a cool and interesting look.”

Shuster also highlighted the significant regional differences in the United States, and suggested that Heineken and companies like it would benefit from more localised marketing. Conversely, he said that smaller exporters should play up their difference and European credentials.

“Americans are always going to be torn between taste and story in their beer. Europeans need to communicate that ‘European cool’ story more effectively,”​ he said.

Trading up

In the past, Americans have viewed export beers such as Heineken and Corona Extra as a way to trade up from standard domestically produced beers, with these two brands accounting for almost half of the US import market between them, but both have seen their sales figures flatten out in the past two years. Meanwhile, the price gap between export and craft beers is narrowing, with Corona having increased its prices last year and Heineken planning a $1 price hike on its six packs in November.

“The US beer market is dynamic,”​ added Shuster, “Domestic brewers are resurgent and tastes are changing.”

The US-based Brewers Association, which represents the American real ale sector, defines craft breweries as those which produce no more than 200m barrels a year and have no more than 25 per cent ownership by non-craft manufacturers.

Related topics: Markets

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