Trends in the beverage industry change quickly and it can be tough to know how to address them for the success of your brewery. What drives the trends and the crowds? What motivates a customer to be brand-loyal? Does your brewery need to spend a lot of money chasing the trends in order to stay relevant? I address each of these questions and more in this post because I believe this is an exciting time to be a craft brewer and you can continue to grow by being aware of a few key things. If you can keep your finger on the pulse of the trends, you will also keep your customers.
What Will the 20-year-olds Do?
It is a universal fact that people in their 20’s create the new demand for alcoholic beverages. In this decade of their life, they form their ideas about alcohol and their resulting choices swing the market. In the past, drinking and over consumption were a right of passage for many people. But today’s young people seem to take a cautious eye towards alcohol. They are very conscious of what their parents did and they want to forge a new path.
To them, beer and alcohol are only one way to be social. Now there are other substances that can take the place of alcohol. This is the first generation where cannabis in all of its forms are becoming legal in many states. The open consumption of cannabis is a new choice that wasn’t available to their parents. This is partially why cannabis is exploding wherever it is legalized.
Short Attention Spans
In this age of instant feedback, people want to see new and different all of the time. That is why most successful craft breweries continuously package new and interesting beers. People are used to having many choices and making wide swings in their choices. It used to be that you had a favorite beer and you stuck with that beer. Now it is common to not only swing to different kinds of beer, but different kinds of alcohol, in one night.
A Wide Variety of Choices
What does this mean for craft beer? Innovation, innovation, innovation. Any brewery who does not change their beer choices is bound to get stale in the eyes of the consumer. That means that there is less and less of a reason to pick up that beer that you have already tried. Innovation is not only defined by the liquid in the can (bottles are almost gone from the consuming public’s mindset), but by the brewery’s brand and logo. Breweries need to constantly adapt to changing trends to remain relevant.
Share of the Buzz
There are many more players in the recreational consumption space now. Along with alcoholic drinks, cannabis manufacturers are trying out different cannabis beverages. There is a lot of experimentation going on with the addition CBD and THC into non-alcoholic beers. Everyone is trying to get their “share of the buzz”. What about skipping malt all together and producing hop water? You can get the experience of drinking without the resulting calories.
A Desire to be Healthier
A general trend that is affecting all age groups is the “better for you” trend. If a substance is considered “better for you”, it tends to increase demand. The need to watch what you eat and drink is a steady trend for the last couple of years. Most people realize that unconscious overeating and drinking leads to obesity and a whole host of ailments. This is why people are paying more and more attention to what they consume.
Beer is the most caloric alcoholic beverage. That wonderful hazy IPA can clock in at 300 calories. That means that someone can switch to a different kind of alcohol and save on calories. This is part of the reason for the explosion of hard seltzer. Most hard seltzer is about 100 calories. It’s a way to have that carbonated beverage experience at one-half to one-third of the calories. That is hard to argue when obesity is at an all time high in the U.S.
Just making small changes can make a difference. Some of my clients are noting “low calorie” beers in their line-up. Just showing which beers are “better for you” will also increase sales.
Ready or Not, Something is Trending
In conclusion, as a brewer you need to keep your eyes and ears open. Watch not only what your customers are consuming, but how and why as well. What is the motivation behind their choice? You might even consider surveying your customers, formally or informally, to gain more insight into their habits. As always, ensure that before hopping on the bandwagon of a new trend that it makes sense for your brewery and brand. Happy brewing!