The beer category has been in a bit of a rut lately. Per capita beer consumption has been steadily decreasing for a decade.
There have been lots of articles and presentations in recent years about the causes of this decline (demographics and prices are two big ones) as well as some potential solutions. For example, the Brewers Association’s (BA) Julia Herz has been a forceful advocate for the three W’s – women, wellness, and winning at retail.
To that list I want to add a fourth … visiting breweries!
New research conducted by Nielsen’s CGA division during their bi-annual On Premise User Survey (NCGA-OPUS) suggests that beer drinkers who are visiting breweries are drinking more beer, whereas those that aren’t are drinking less. Of those who visited a brewery, 29 percent said they drank more beer, versus 21 percent who drank less, a net of +8 percent. For those who didn’t visit a brewery, 24 percent said they drank more and 28 percent said they drank less, a net of -4 percent. Weight those based on their percent of beer drinkers, and you get -1 percent, or basically beer’s year-to-date trend.
It’s also interesting to note that the positive trends for brewery visitors cut across gender, whereas the OPUS data suggests that among non-visitors, women leaving the beer category is a primary source of volume loss.
Now, as someone who cares about good analysis, I won’t pretend that this means going to a brewery is causing people to drink more beer. The causality might run the other way: people who are drinking more beer might be seeking out breweries (makes sense, right?). Or there might be some other variable that explains both trends (going to breweries and drinking more beers = increasing income, for example).
That said, from this data, I think it’s pretty clear that getting people into breweries is a good thing for the beer industry, or more broadly, that everyone in beer should not just support brewery visits, but actively try to re-create the reasons people go to breweries throughout the three-tier system.
What This MeansFor Distributors
An 8 percent growth among 28 percent of beer drinkers (the percent who visited a brewery) isn’t a small number. Think about this: 8 percent*28percent*200M barrels = ~4.5M barrels of beer. So if these beer lovers are drinking a typical amount, their beer consumption is going up far more than at-the-brewery sales alone, suggesting once again that brewery visits spill out into the wider market and help build brand beer (as well as the brands of the breweries they are visiting).
What This Means For Retailers
There is plenty of evidence that smart operators can capture the growing volume of these beer lovers as well. In fact, the top three reasons consumers say they visit breweries have nothing to do with them being a brewery! They are things that any retailer can do. They are:
1. Ability to sample various beers (e.g. flights of beer)
2. To learn about different beers
3. I know the beer will be fresh
(Source, Nielsen Craft Insights Panel, 2018)
Variety, experience, and fresh quality beer. Add in flavor and you have pretty much the top reasons beer lovers drink craft in the first place.
To sum this all up, although there are lots of places beer can improve in order to regrow the category, many of the answers are right in front of us, with breweries showing the way. Give beer lovers the variety, experience, and quality they are looking for and the volume will follow. •