According to the Brewers Association, in 2017, craft brewer sales accounted for 12.7 percent of the U.S. beer market by volume. In 2007, craft brewer sales accounted for a mere 3.8 percent of the U.S. beer market by volume. Growing that much in a decade is definitely something to be proud of (and numbers keep showing beer sales trend down overall while craft sales trend up), but what about the other 87 percent?
Instead of attacking the big boys, how about we remember what craft beer is all about and start with a little positivity, community and sharing? Here are 13 ways we can work together to help craft beer sales top 13 percent of the total beer sold in the U.S. market.
1. Share a craft beer with a non-craft drinker. Simple, I know, but think about it. If we continue to share our favorite craft beers with the other 12.7 percent that already likes them, we aren’t growing. Eighty-seven out of 100 people aren’t drinking craft. Share a beer with someone who doesn’t typically drink craft.
2. While sharing a craft beer with a non-craft drinker is a step in the right direction, give them the full experience and take them to your favorite brewery. Craft beer isn’t just a beverage but a lifestyle to many of us. Show them the brewery that created an experience that took you from being on the fence to being a full blown beer nerd. Drinking is more fun with friends anyways.
3. Make a comparison. “If you like _______, then you may like _______.” We all had to start somewhere. Take a non-craft beer drinker, find out what they typically drink, then suggest a craft alternative to their standby beverage. This goes well at home or out and about.
4. If you work at a brewery, take the time to educate new guests about your offerings and connect them to your brewery. These days, it’s all about experience, and if you can make your brewery more fun than drinking a six-pack of beer at home, then you’re helping turn someone into a craft beer drinker.
5. Advertising! What better way to grow craft beer then awareness? Independence is great, but awareness draws attention to our cause. Rep your brewery. Wear your sweet brewery shirt. Make your shirts affordable. You aren’t a fashion line — your goal is to sell beer and ideally lots of it. There are people willing to be walking billboards for your brand for the right price point.
6. With regards to brewery operation, don’t just target typical beer drinkers. Expand your advertising to those that typically drink big beer. Do you ever target an ad to macro light drinkers? These are the 87 percent that need to be convinced. Show them what they’re missing out on and give them a reason to give your brewery a try.
7. Following these lines, diversify. Take a look around your brewery. The odds are it looks a lot like me. Breweries need to continue creating welcoming environments and continue experimenting with unique craft beers that appeal to everyone, from those who typically drink lime flavored water to those that drink the darkest creation known to man. While experience is vital, also producing approachable products helps train a newbie’s palate to dive deeper into craft.
8. Create a new holiday. We already have “National Beer Day” on April 7 and “National Homebrew Day” on May 7. Let’s keep going! Why not “National Drink at a Brewery Day?” or “Independent Beverage Day?”
9. You don’t need to create a holiday to give guests a reason to enjoy a craft beer. Host events at your brewery that not only appeal to the current 12.7 percent, but events that attract a non-craft crowd. Encourage businesses to hold meetings at your space, holiday parties, fundraisers and any type of gathering that attracts a unique group of people. We’ve even heard of breweries hosting religious services. Stand out and try unique ways to expose new guests to your brewery.
10. In addition to encouraging local organizations to utilize your brewery, also build partnerships to promote your brand outside of your four walls. Merchandise and to-go beer is a great way to do this, but sponsoring local events and employing unique marketing strategies can put your brand in places one may not expect. How about sponsoring a local concert series? Your brewery’s sponsored night at the ballpark? Maybe even wrap presents around the holidays at a market around town to not only give back to the community, but to have your brewery be seen for more than just a producer of tasty drinks. Never stop brainstorming ways to get your brewery seen.
11. Continue to establish core beers. The typical craft beer drinker today is constantly seeking out and trying new beers, which is demanding breweries keep churning out new beers to keep up. But those drinkers in the 87 percent have been happy to drink those same macro beers for decades. If a new customer did find and love a beer you produced and then can no longer find it (or maybe it’s a seasonal that doesn’t quite taste the same the next time they try it 12 months later), then some potential craft beer drinkers may be lost on the margins, left to retreat back to what they know.
12. There are still quite a few untapped markets for craft beer. While a recent study noted that 85 percent of legal drinking age adults live within 10 miles of a brewery, there are still areas of the United States that are not yet craft destinations. These markets where craft has yet to become a big player are sitting there as opportunities for craft brewers to expand. Put in the necessary investment, education of the consumers and you have done your share to help craft break the 13 percent mark.
13. Do your part and drink more craft beer. Ok, so this one is a cheat, but every little bit helps.
Andrew Coplon is a founder of Secret Hopper, a mystery shopping company for craft beer businesses.