‘It’s hip to love hops!’ Five consumer trends in craft beer

By Rachel Arthur contact

- Last updated on GMT

Pic:getty/EddieHernandezPhotography
Pic:getty/EddieHernandezPhotography

Related tags: Craft beer

Craft beer is here to stay: but what are consumers looking for? And what does this mean for the craft brewing industry? The good news is that craft beer consumption continues to rise; but a new report warns that building brand loyalty will be an uphill task for many craft brewers.

In the US consumption of craft beer has increased by 500% and quadrupled its market share in the past decade; while in Europe, craft beer consumption has a projected 11% CAGR for the coming years.

And it’s the enthusiasm of craft beer fans that is driving the market forward. Conducted by Totta Research, the new global insights report puts the spotlight on consumer trends seven markets: the US, UK, Belgium, Spain, France, Italy and the Netherlands. It was commissioned by DSM, which provides brewing enzymes for craft brews and the wider beer industry.

The report surveyed 3,300 craft drinkers, with four in five saying craft beer is here to stay.

1) More people are drinking craft beer – with under 30s leading the way

Just under 50% of the craft drinkers surveyed say they now drink more craft beer compared to two years ago. Only 6% of this group are drinking less craft beer. The greatest increase in consumption has taken place in those aged 18-30.

This increase is eating into regular beer consumption with 56% of respondents saying they drink less regular beer now.

Of the drinkers aged under 30, 64% say they drink more craft beer than two years ago, while 45% drink craft beer out of home at least once a week.

“Perhaps the best news for the brewing industry is that we appear to have an emerging new generation of craft fans – and that represents a big opportunity for brewers around the globe,” ​says Joana Cameiro, business director, beverages, at DSM.

2) Emphasis on provenance and sustainability

Craft drinkers value ‘locally brewed’ beer: but interestingly this is less about where it originates from and more about how the product is produced, according to the report.

hops getty jeka1984
Local ingredients are important to craft beer fans. Pic:Getty/jeka1984

A key defining point of ‘craft’ for consumers is beer produced with fresh, local ingredients and available in a range of different product types. However, the majority of craft drinkers expressed an interest in trying local beers from around the world. And one third of these expressed a strong interest in trying new foreign craft beers.

More clear-cut is the emphasis on sustainability. Statement of ‘ethical’ or ‘environmentally friendly’ were by far the top claim by new craft beer launches last year, according to Mintel data.

“The craft revolution is all about sustainability. Qualities like provenance of ingredients and sustainable production are increasingly important to drinkers,” ​says the report.

“Half our respondents believe that craft beer is more sustainable, and that a product advertised as being sustainable is more attractive”.

3) Quality and taste come above price

Taste has always been key: but DMS says the report reveals just how important taste is compared to other factors – including price.

Some 75% of respondents cited taste above all else when choosing a beer. Two out of three consumers said that drinking craft beer feels more ‘special’ than drinking regular beer.

An equally large percentage were attracted to craft beer based of its premium image.

In general, ‘tasty’ and ‘quality’ are the words that those surveyed also associate with craft beer; along with ‘local’.

“The significance for brewers is that price is not such an obstacle,” ​says the report.

How do consumers define craft?

  • Beer made in small batches; sold through a microbrewery
  • Fresh, local ingredients
  • Local beers from around the world

4) Diversity is key: 80% of craft drinkers will try new brands

Only one in five consumers surveyed believe that the popularity of craft beer won’t last. In fact, some 80% said they will continue to experiment with new brands, while just 4% of those surveyed said they would not.

5) Craft drinkers are increasingly adventurous and open-minded: only 50% express brand loyalty

While such interest in variety is great news for the category, it can, however, present challenges to brands.  

“Building brand loyalty is clearly an uphill task. Less than half our respondents said they were ‘quite loyal’ to a particular brand,” ​said the report.

“Craft drinkers seem to be committed to the beer long-term rather than the brand. It’s a bittersweet message for the industry in some respects, but it represents a golden, untapped opportunity for brewers that can get it right.”

The full report is available here.

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