Mexican craft beer looks to mimic big-brand success with exports

By Beth Newhart

- Last updated on GMT

Mexico is the world's largest exporter of beer, but craft brewers have yet to catch up. Pic: Cerveza Mexico
Mexico is the world's largest exporter of beer, but craft brewers have yet to catch up. Pic: Cerveza Mexico

Related tags Beer Beer market Craft beer Craft brewers Mexico

At the recent Cerveza México 2019 event, it was revealed that the country’s craft beer market is nearly up to 1,400 independent breweries with a 29 million litre output. The industry relies heavily on exports to the US and Europe to keep up with annual growth.

Though small by comparison to the US, Mexico’s craft beer market is growing by 53% every year, according to an annual industry report from Mexican craft beer association ACERMEX. It was released at the Cerveza México 2019 conference last month.

The report found that craft beer production in Mexico is expected to reach more than 29 million litres by the end of 2019, up from about 19 million litres in 2018. More than 40% of the estimated 940 breweries operating in Mexico were surveyed.

In 2010, only 14 new independent breweries were opening on average each year. The number of operational craft beer companies in Mexico is expected to increase from 940 in 2018 to 1,400 by the end of 2019.

This year, Cerveza Mexico was an interactive space and event complete with sampling, discussions, more than 150 craft beer producers, importers and exporters, and ingredients and equipment suppliers.

Risk-taking pays off

Even with the rapid growth, the ACERMEX report said many craft brewers are investing a lot of money in their businesses with small profits. Only 4% of the surveyed craft brands currently export their beers, which the report pointed to as a majorly untapped market.

Mexico is still the world’s largest exporter of beer, shipping out about $4.09bn every year. The most popular destinations for Mexican beer are the US (47%), Europe (27%), Central America (13%) and Asia (7%).

The most popular varieties of big-brand Mexican beer include Corona, Modelo and Dos Equis, which all have a large presence outside of Mexico. Cerveza Mexico wants more independent brands to get on board with exporting, a topic discussed at events like the conference and the Beer Cup.

The report said, “much of the growth of Mexico’s craft beer industry is being driven by innovation and a risk-taking, entrepreneurial spirit,”​ which is ideal for growing small breweries and taking them international.

One such success story is Cerveza Loba, a craft beer startup that now exports up to 40% of its volume since launching in 2012. The entrepreneur behind the brand is Alejandro Magallanes, who says stepping outside the cultural box helped turn Cerveza Loba into one of the country’s biggest craft operations.

The brand’s brews move away from the three styles that dominate Mexican craft beer production--Pale Ale, IPA and American Stout--into fusions and obscure, heritage beers.

“None of our beers fall within the 10 most produced styles in Mexico, but despite this we are among the best represented brewers across Mexico and export to the UK and the US,” ​Magallanes said.

“Instead of copying styles or being one more company producing the same beers, our focus is on beers you can’t find anywhere else. This grabs the attention of consumers because people that buy craft beer want to try new flavours and styles.”

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