Who Cares Who Brews Your Beer?

Mainstream or independent brewer - can you tell? Image: rusak / iStock / Getty Images Plus

Fewer consumers than we may have thought care about independence, according to a recent report.

 

Do your customers care who owns the IPA or wheat beer they order?

The recent rush of major brewers buying up smaller craft brewers has led to, among other things, those beers losing their affiliation with the craft Brewers Association. Many hardcore beer fans have turned away from those craft brewers as well.

But what the average customer with a taste for contemporary brews thinks is another matter altogether, according to UBS Evidence Lab's third annual survey. Approximately 1,200 US alcohol consumers were surveyed and the report concludes most Americans don't care who makes the beers they prefer.

UBS Evidence Lab How important is independence in a craft beer brand - Do You Care Who Brews Your Beer?
Image: UBS Evidence Lab

According to the report, about 45% of American beer drinkers say they don’t care about independence when they order a craft beer. That’s especially good news for giant brewer AB InBev, which has scooped up about a dozen small brewers in the past few years. It’s also good news for Constellation, MillerCoors and Heineken, big brewers who have taken on, in whole or part, numerous American craft brewers. Only 30% of respondents to the survey said independence was "extremely important" to them when they ordered a craft beer.

Along with stalled growth or shrinking sales among many of the craft industry’s leading brewers, as well as the continued opening of new breweries, consumers might be ready to take a break from constant experimentation and settle on more widely available and consistent brews. According to UBS, about 41% of respondents believe a craft beer's quality remains the same after being acquired by a major brewer; more than 10% said the quality of the brand would actually improve. UBS analyst Nik Oliver concluded that major companies like AB InBev and Heineken can succeed with craft beers they acquire if they can convince consumers that the beers already have a solid reputation.

One of the problems facing brewers large and small, according to the report, is that Millennials don't like beer as much as older generations. Beer has consistently been losing share to spirits and, to a lesser extent recently, wine. "The percentage of consumers that enjoy (spirits) brand experimentation and that view craft brands as cool has grown by 8 to 13 percentage points in the past two years," UBS said.

The UBS survey of how likely Millennials are to recommend different beer brands provided further evidence that this generation is simply less into almost every type of beer than Baby Boomers and Gen X. Compared to all consumers polled in the survey, every beer brand except Stella Artois, Dos Equis and Miller have lower brand equity with Millennials.