Let Meijer and the Michigan craft beer scene be an inspiration to us all. Meijer began carrying its first craft brew more than 20 years ago and remains committed to the growing industry and the up-and-coming local breweries across the Midwest — and with good reason, as the sales speak for themselves.
The Grand Rapids, Mich.-based retailer’s commitment to local craft breweries represents an annual economic impact of more than $100 million across the Midwest. Meijer expects to stay on par with its projected double-digit volume growth in craft beer sales, as the retailer has experienced over the past three years.
With respect to Michigan-based craft beer alone, Meijer reports it has seen a 20 percent increase across its six-state footprint so far this year, said Rich O’Keefe, Meijer senior buyer, during a recent exclusive roundtable gathering of some of the best craft beer breweries in southeast Michigan.
“We attribute this growth to establishing a great dialogue with craft beer breweries throughout Michigan and cultivating their popularity across our retail foot print,” said O’Keefe at Atwater Brewery in Detroit. “The consumer response has been tremendous. It proves that the thirst for Michigan craft beer is apparent throughout our retail markets. We are proud of the great products Michigan-based breweries produce and look forward to expanding the availability and building the popularity of other great regional breweries.”
Working together to promote craft beer
Meijer gathered together several Detroit and Michigan-based brewery owners and founders at Atwater Brewery to discuss product trends and the state of the local craft beer industry. The event kicked off local in-store tasting events with area craft “brewlebrities” on site at select Meijer stores.
• Joe Short: Founder/Owner of Short’s Brewing Company
• Mark Reith: Owner of Atwater Brewery
• Eric Briggeman: Vice President/General Manager of Rochester Mills Brewery
• Kyle VanDeventer: Sales Manager of Griffin Claw
• John Leone: Owner/President of ROAK Brewing Company
• Tony Grant: Owner of Jolly Pumpkin Artisan Ales, North Peak Brewing Company and Northern United Brewing Company
• Chase Kushak: Co-Founder/CEO of Founders Brewing Company
• Matt Moberly: Director of Business Insights of Bells Brewery
“The concept of craft beer – especially in Detroit – has grown quickly from a garage hobby to a viable economic engine for Detroit andMichigan,” said Peter Whitsett, executive vice president of merchandising and marketing for Meijer. “We are proud to celebrate the craft masters who drove this industry to where it is today in Detroit. Their commitment to quality and craftsmanship is fueling demand for craft beer in and around Detroit.”
Selling craft from the get-go
Meijer is a Grand Rapids, Mich.-based retailer that operates 230 supercenters and grocery stores throughout Michigan,Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, Kentucky and Wisconsin. It began carrying its first craft brew – Bell’s Oberon – 20 years ago at a single Kalamazoo store, and today sells more than 550 different craft beers from 220 local breweries across the retailer’s six-state footprint. Of those, 40 are produced by Detroit or southeast Michigan breweries. Meijer continues to partner with local craft brewers to expand their distribution. In fact, Michigan craft beer sales account for 31 percent of the retailer’s craft beer sales and 10 percent of the retailer’s total beer sales.
“Being in the same room with this group of craft brewlebrities – knowing their histories and the how far they’ve come is truly amazing,” said Shannon Long, producer and co-host of Pure Brews America, who moderated the roundtable discussion. “I think what makes them great is that they are focused on their core and not the next hot thing. They don’t need to follow a trend because they are the trend. “