It’s craft beer versus the clever look of America’s largest brewers, who are riding a wave of indie beer sales with indie-sounding brands, according to an analysis by Adweek.
Store coolers across the nation are making more shelf space for packs of craft beer. Sales in the U.S. are expected to hit an incredible $18 billion by 2018, tripling since just 2012, the product research firm Mintel forecasts. Who’s drinking it: 18 (yes) to 24 year olds, many of them with sophisticated palates and a desire to buy local. In fact, half of millennials over age 25 drink craft beer.
Meanwhile domestic and imported beers have seen little to no growth, with one exception: faux craft brands. With indie-sounding names like Shock Top (Anheuser-Busch InBev) and Third Shift (SABMiller), large companies that benefit from global distribution chains have the advantage over smaller brewers, which still account for only 6 percent of total U.S. beer sales.
Can craft brew fans tell the difference between a big brewery’s boutique label and a truly independent brand? Indie brewers think so.
“We are selling community, and they are selling liquid,” Lagunitas founder Tony Magee told Adweek. His Petaluma, CA-based brewery is hardly small anymore, with sales of $61 million last year and climbing. It seems a brewery’s size is less important than its brand authenticity, which younger drinkers value highly. Indie brewers understand their audience, eschewing traditional advertising techniques in favor of channels younger drinkers are comfortable with – namely word of mouth and digital marketing.
“Trying to mask a brand’s ties to big beer could well backfire if the consumer perceives the strategy as an attempt to pull the wool over the eyes of beer lovers,” Adweek says.