Targeting hispanic and female consumers are opportunities for craft brewers, says IRI beer expert Dan Wandel: while packaging craft beer in cans allows brewers to meet more varied consumption occasions.
Meanwhile, meaningful stories, a real emphasis on local, and focus on quality will help craft beer brands differentiate themselves.
Differentiating products becomes more challenging
“IRI data, and other industry sources, continue to suggest that the craft beer segment is poised to continue its impressive sales growth here in the US,” Wandel told BeverageDaily.com
Craft beer’s dollar sales were up 21.4% and volume sales up 17.4%, compared to a year ago, based on year-to-date data ending July 5, 2015. This figure covers total US multi-outlet and convenience channels (such as supermarkets, mass merchandisers, Walmart, Sam’s Club, BJ’s Club, dollar store and convenience stores).
In US supermarkets, craft beer and imported beer have gained the most share this year so far. Craft beer dollar sales are up 19%, compared to a year ago. Craft now accounts for a 16.5% share of total beer dollar sales in all US supermarkets.
“With so many craft beer offerings, it is becoming more challenging to differentiate products from each other,” Wandel said. “We are also seeing a strong desire by consumers to seek out local craft beer offerings.
“Craft brewers need to continue to focus on the quality of their products and have meaningful stories behind their brands. It is important to continue to maintain brand equity in a crowded marketplace.”
Opportunities for craft
“Females and Hispanics are two consumer groups who present large opportunities for the craft segment,” he continued.
“We are also seeing a significant increase in session IPAs in craft,” he said (session IPAs are generally defined as having a lower ABV than others). “This is the third straight year that the number of craft session IPA brands selling in total US supermarkets has doubled.”
IPA is already a strong point within craft beer: it now accounts or more than 27% share of the craft category (in US supermarket dollar sales). Craft seasonal takes a 13.4% chunk of the category, followed by craft pale ale (8.8%).
The top IPA brands in the year to date are Lagunitas India Pale Ale, Sierra Nevada Torpedo Extra, and Samuel Adams Rebel IPA.
Also differentiating craft offers from others is the use of cans, with the packaging presenting a higher quality image than may have been the case in the past.
“Cans are becoming more prevalent in the craft beer segment in the US,” said Wandel. “I think that the technology has allowed for higher quality standards.
“In addition, cans allow for craft to compete for more consumer drinking occasions that they may not have been able to compete for in the past. A couple of good examples of this would include outdoor and sporting events. Cans also make for a good package offering in convenience stories, which is the largest beer sales channel in the US.”