We’re big fans of Grand Rapids, Mich. It’s got a powerful combo of great craft breweries and progressive educators embracing the beer scene. Just as cool: Grand Rapids is also home and headquarters to Meijer, a fairly famous Mich.-based retailer that operates 223 super-centers and grocery stores throughout Michigan, Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, Kentucky and Wisconsin. For 20 years, Meijer has been a sizable supporter of craft brewers — especially Michigan-made beer. In fact, last week, Meijer announced it was “selling more than 34 locally brewed craft beers each minute in Michigan,” rivaling any specialty store across the Midwest. And it’s not just Michigan.
“What’s happening here in Michigan is a microcosm of what’s happening throughout the Midwest and across the country — the state of craft beer is thriving,” said Peter Whitsett, executive vice president of merchandising and marketing for Meijer, who notes that since 2010, the number of craft breweries Meijer carries and the space it provides for its selection has more than doubled. “Since carrying our first six packs of Bell’s Oberon in 1995, the culture of exploration in the craft beer community has continued to seek new tastes and flavors from locally made brands. The craft partnerships we’ve forged over the last two decades are indicative of what is considered some of the best beers available in the country.”
Meijer provided the numbers to prove it. The company expects to continue five years of double-digit volume growth in craft beer sales and plans to sell more than $90 million in craft beer in 2016, including $30 million in local and hyper-local craft beers produced by breweries in Michigan. That’s an amazing number. According to the press release, local breweries account for 44 percent of all craft beer sold in Michigan, and Meijer plans on carrying (wait it for …) 50 Michigan breweries in state and at stores across its Midwestern footprint this year. For obvious reasons, the Michigan brewers are fans.
“I remember coming to Meijer to start talking about distribution beyond our Bellaire brewery in 2006 and not yet having a production and packaging facility,” said Joe Short, founder of Short’s Brewing Co. “The only way we could bring a sample was in a growler. They took a chance on us based on our experimental brews and that relationship not only helped build anticipation for our brand, but was pivotal in laying the foundation for our continued growth.”