Craft Beer Sales Are Booming

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Since the economic Beer-glassdowntown began, consumers generally haven’t been spending as freely as they once did.

But that has not been the case when it comes to craft beers: The latest research from Chicago-based Mintel, a global supplier of product research, shows that sales of craft beer nearly doubled between 2007 and 2012 — growing from $5.7 billion in 2007 to $12 billion in 2012.

And per Mintel’s research, the boom isn’t likely to slow soon. Mintel is forecasting craft beer sales to grow to a whopping $18 billion by 2018 — a tripling of sales since 2007.

That can’t be great news for the likes of Anheuser-Busch and MillerCoors, as they seek to boost sales for their respective flagship mainstream beers.

Noted Jennifer Zegler, beverage analyst at Mintel: “The growth rates seen by craft beer are impressive, especially during a period when domestic and imported beers have shown flat to declining performance. While the craft and craft-style beer category remains a small segment of the $78 billion U.S. beer industry, the category has been able to stabilize the overall beer industry, which has experienced volume declines in the domestic and imported beer categories since 2008.”

Perhaps sensing that the craft beer craze isn’t about to disappear any time soon, both A-B and MillerCoors have shown an increasing interest in craft beers in recent times. Anheuser-Busch, for instance, recently began marketing small batches of beers tailored to specific zip codes around the country.

And in recent financial reports, Chicago-based MillerCoors has reported strong results for its Tenth and Blake portfolio of craft and import brews. Leinenkugel’s Summer Shandy and Blue Moon Belgian White, in particular, have been selling especially well. MillerCoors is a joint venture of SABMiller, which trades on the London Stock Exchange, and Molson Coors (NYSE: TAP).

Who’s drinking all this craft beer? Mintel research indicated the core demo for these brews is consumers aged 25 to 34. The firm’s research shows that, overall, some 36 percent of American consumers drink craft beer, but 50 percent of older Millennials aged 25 to 34 do so.

The taste profile of craft brews also is heavily favored by Millennials: Some 43 percent of both Millennials and Gen X beer drinkers say craft beer tastes better, compared to just 32 percent of baby boomers.

To expand craft beer’s appeal beyond Millennials, Mintel said more educating of beer drinkers about craft beers is needed. That education could take the form of classes and tastings that inform consumers about the distinctions between craft brews and other alcoholic beverages, Zegler said.

Zegler also indicated there is marketing power in joining forces. She recommended craft beer brewers band together to create multibrewery variety packs that would offer consumers a taste of one city, state or region. “These taste-of-an-area packages would allow consumers to experience smaller breweries from their own or other geographies,” Zegler said.

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