It’s dry January and complicating the toughest month of the year for craft breweries is a more sober Gen Z. Gen Z drink on average 20 percent less than Millennials, who also drink less than the previous generation. According to Forbes, the non-alcoholic beverage category is expected to grow by 25 percent between 2022 and 2026. After a difficult year across the industry, breweries are faced with challenges of reaching newer and younger customers to remain competitive.
In order to better understand Gen Z’s decision making and visit motivations, Craft Beer Advisory Services completed a nationwide consumer personas report and focus group interview with Gen Z craft beer drinkers. The nationwide survey went to craft beer drinkers across the United States and results came in across the second half of 2023.
Gen Z craft beer drinkers are split down the middle when it comes to taproom visit frequency. Half of them visit taprooms monthly or less while the other half make multiple visits per month or more.
So what is Gen Z drinking in the taproom?
It was not IPAs, heavy stouts, or beer in general in some cases. Drinks beyond beer such as seltzers, ciders, or even liquor were mentioned by nearly everyone, particularly women. Groups of Gen Z customers going to the taproom together often have different tastes or preferences only satisfied by variety.
When it comes to beer, lighter styles are significantly more popular. Early drinking often starts with domestics like Miller Lite or Bud Light, so pilsners and lagers are most approachable for these new craft beer customers. Even within the beer category, variety is most important. Flights, samples, and the ability to try new things is most attractive to Gen Z.
What about food?
Half of Gen Z rated food as a very or extremely important factor motivating a taproom visit. This ranked second after beer and drink variety. Traditional pub fare like burgers, pizza, and wings ranked among the top foods of interest, but vegetarian options like salad were also more likely to be ordered by Gen Z than other generations indicating the health conscious consumer goes beyond the beverage category.
Does entertainment or events matter?
Yes, they do. In fact, Gen Z and Millennials value entertainment like live music almost twice as much as generations. Across the research report and focus group, Gen Z made it clear they are after experiences. Social media is regularly being checked to learn about different events or see what the brewery environment is like.
Putting it all together
Gen Z is after the complete experience. They want a variety of drinks to choose from, beer and beyond. Extending visits nearly requires food of some sort. Events and entertainment matter nearly twice as much as they do compared to older generations. Almost half of Gen Z is unwilling to travel more than 10 miles to try a new brewery, so hitting on these factors is more of a need-to-have than a nice-to-have for craft breweries interested in appealing to younger audiences.
Michael Varda is the Founder at Craft Beer Advisory Services, a market research and analytics firm exclusively dedicated to the craft beer industry. Their work helps craft breweries understand their audience, increase sales, and sharpen marketing with consumer intelligence research and analytics.