Speakers at the conference included representatives from Anheuser-Busch InBev, SABMiller, Heineken and Diageo, as well as from craft brewers and associated industries.
So what have beer gurus been saying?
“Complexity is here to stay. It should be managed instead of avoided.”
Hubert te Braake, supply chain development and support director, Heineken, looks at the challenges from rising SKUs, shorter lead times and increasing demand.
“If you ever get to the stage where you think you’ve got it sorted, it’s an indicator that you’re just about to go out of date.”
Mark Sandys, global head of Beer and Baileys, Diageo, on digital marketing for beer. Brewers have to change the way they approach advertising in a modern, technologically advanced, connected world. “We’ve learned a lot as we’ve gone alone, in fact, that’s probably one of our biggest lessons: we have to keep learning,” he says.
“There is a lot of confusion around the word craft. Intriguingly, consumers increasingly are getting tired of the overuse of the word.”
However, consumers still want craftsmanship and all the attributes of the craft movement, says Kevin Baker, account director, Canadean.
“What we really want to do is foster a culture of smart drinking globally to reduce the harmful use of alcohol”
To this end, Bart Wellens, Innovation Director Europe, AB InBev, outlines the task of ‘Innovating for a Better World’. As an example, AB InBev has pledged for no and lower alcohol beer products to represent at least 20% of its global volumes by the end of 2025.
“Nothing hurts us more as a glass supplier to have excited people come to us, to the design table, and say: ‘This is fully approved by our marketing team, our management’… and we look at the bottle and say: ‘This is not going to work’.”
Involve packaging suppliers at the early stages of new projects to get a reality check on the creative design process, advises Melianthe Leeman, category leader beer and spirits, O-I Europe.
“When it comes to craft beer, at the end of the day it’s the consumer that needs to decide whether they think it’s craft or not, or whether it means anything or not.”
Johan Bunner, head of Europe, Brooklyn Brewery (the #12 craft brewery in the US), is set the 'almost impossible' task of defining craft. The US has a definition of what a craft brewer is, but around the world the definition of craft is a loose one that can be taken to refer to ownership, size, taste, or a number of other factors.
“Never stop questioning yourself.”
Charles Leclef, owner, Het Anker Brewery, Belgium, on innovation. The brewery started five generations ago and its products include Gouden Carolus, Lucifer and Boscoli.
“We also try and have a little bit of fun”
It can be a challenge running a small brewery, says Robert Thompson, MD and owner of Surrey based craft brewer Hogs Back. But there’s also some humor: this month it has launched ‘Hogswallop’, a 4.2% ABV easy-drinking rye beer, to tie in with the UK’s referendum on EU membership.
“We’re very lucky that we’re living in a time where IoT and big data is so approachable to us, from a technology and a cost perspective”
Ilan Sobel, COO, Weissbeerger, on how big data and the Internet of Things [IoT] can redefine how breweries create a competitive advantage in the on-premise channel.