Over the last decade, the beer category has experienced significant market share decline as consumers shift some beer consumption to wine, spirits, and now, where legal, cannabis. We know there’s a lot of, ahem, smoke being blown about the impact legal weed is or isn’t having on beer sales, so the following must be taken with a gram of salt, but the Cannabiz Consumer Group (C2G) estimates that in legal cannabis markets, retail beer sales have declined by 7 percent. But a bright spot emerges in the highly regional craft beer market.
A new analysis by C2G reveals craft beer is impacted at a much lower rate than its domestic counterparts. Simply put, craft beer sales aren’t as threatened by the impact of cannabis as domestic beer. This is especially true for on-premise craft beer sales, where only marginal impact has been noted.
C2G Founder Rick Maturo believes craft beer’s relative insulation from cannabis’ initial sales impact traces to the underlying reason consumers frequently choose craft over domestic beer.
“With craft beers, consumers have a wide assortment of brands to choose from, so their decision process and affinity for craft is often tied to the experience and exploration to discover new tastes and varieties. They are sensation seekers and less risk-averse. This makes cannabis much more likely to enter their consideration set but not as likely to be perceived as a substitute for the craft beer hunt. This decision-making paradigm differs from domestic beer where choice is predicated on familiarity, availability, value and mood enhancement. In these instances, cannabis is much more of a viable alternative and has additional benefits — no hangover, fewer calories, all natural ingredients, pain relief and a perception of less risk for addition or harm to their health.”
Smaller craft brewers, tap-rooms and brewpubs should be especially pleased with these findings. Major domestic beer companies adopting a craft beer play will discover that their acquired craft portfolio can offset some of the losses that would otherwise result in consumer migration to cannabis.
Other findings from the study
- On-Premise beer sales are significantly less likely to be impacted than retail sales.
- Consumption of cannabis modifies the variety and brands of beer a consumer chooses.
- The impact of cannabis on retail domestic beer consumption is more than two times greater than its impact on craft beers.
- Cannabis consumers tend to “trade-up” from a domestic beer to a craft beer.
- Cannabis consumers indicate stronger affinity for certain beer brands over others.
Maturo offers a word of caution to craft brewers:
“Although craft beers haven’t seen much of an impact from the cannabis industry thus far, new opportunities for cannabis use may pose threats in the future. Denver’s Prop 300 permits cannabis to be consumed at licensed bars and restaurants. Should Denver ease the burden on business owners to implement on-site consumption or should other legal municipalities follow Prop 300’s lead, cannabis will certainly become a formidable competitor to on-premise craft beer sales. Though not possible with today’s laws, there may come a time where you’ll find a THC-infused brew on-tap at your favorite watering hole between the Budweiser and Boston Lager.”