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NEW YORK — Craft and local beers are becoming the shining stars of the beer category, which otherwise has been dimming in recent years.
According to Nielsen, higher-end priced products, such as craft, are driving most of the growth across the overall beer market. However, the total beer category growth has been relatively flat. Volume for the whole category only grew 0.6 percent for the 52-week period ending June 20.
By comparison, volume growth of craft beer for the same period was 10.2 percent — on par with the growth of Mexican imports.
The research company also found the word "craft" inspires consumers — particularly younger legal drinking age males — to purchase beer. According to a recent Nielsen study of craft beverage alcohol conducted online by Harris Poll, 35 percent of adults 21 and older say they're more interested in trying an adult beverage labeled craft. Among men 21-24, that figure jumps to 46 percent.
However, craft can often mean different things to different consumers. Overall, most people who buy alcohol are most likely to associate the term with three main traits as it relates to alcoholic beverages:
- Coming from a small, independent company (56 percent of people surveyed)
- Part of a small batch (50 percent)
- Handcrafted (43 percent)
When looking at gender perspectives about craft, men and women both associate it with small independent companies at equally high levels. Women, however, are more likely to associate it with products that are handcrafted (47 percent vs. 41 percent), while men are more likely to associate the term with small batch production (54 percent vs 45 percent).
Age differences in "what craft means" were even more noticeable, according to Nielsen. Handcrafted, artisanal, higher priced and quality were relatively more important to younger consumers (21-34), while small batch production, made by a small independent company and produced locally were ranked at a higher level by older consumers (55-64) compared to younger ones.
Local is also another trend emerging in the cooler. To find out just how important local is, Nielsen conducted an English-language survey by Harris Poll in February to get right down to the hops and the rye of the matter.
The results showed that while local is important across all alcohol drinking consumer groups (beer, wine and spirits), it's most important to beer fans. Looking at different age groups of beer drinkers, local is most important to the youngest group of beer consumers (those 21-34). More than half of beer drinkers in this demographic said local is very or somewhat important. The preference for local is even higher when looking just at craft beer drinkers, according to Nielsen.
In addition, among all alcoholic beverage categories, local has grown in importance the most among beer drinkers. Twenty-two percent of beer drinkers said they think the importance of being made locally has grown over the last couple of years, compared with 14 percent of wine drinkers and only 5 percent of spirit drinkers.
At the end of June, craft beer accounted for 11.9 percent of the total dollar volume of the beer category in the United States. However, Nielsen found that craft's market share varies significantly by channel.
For example, it has a much larger share in the grocery channel (20.1 percent) than the convenience (4.6 percent) and drug (8.7 percent) channels, largely because grocery stores have significantly more floor space available, which allows for greater assortment and options for consumers.
That said, according to Nielsen, the convenience channel holds the title for being the leader for overall beer sales, and craft is making a strong run there, growing at a faster pace in the convenience channel (21.4 percent) than in grocery stores (13.7 percent) for the 52 weeks ending June 20.