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Craft Beer Sales Predicted to Triple by 2017

CHICAGO –- The future looks bright for the craft beer industry, with sales having nearly doubled from $5.7 billion in 2007 to $12 billion in 2012. Market researcher Mintel's latest research forecasts even stronger sales for craft and craft-style beer moving forward, with the segment’s sales predicted to grow to $18 billion by 2017, tripling in size in just one decade.

“The growth rates seen by craft beer are impressive, especially during a period when domestic and imported beers have shown a flat to declining performance,” stated Jennifer Zegler, beverage analyst at Mintel. “Unlike its domestic and imported beer counterparts, craft beer has been able to defy overall beer market trends and continue expansion during the economic downturn and subsequent slow recovery."

While the craft and craft-style beer category remains a small segment of the $78 billion U.S. beer industry, the category has been able to stabilize the overall beer industry, which has experienced volume declines in the domestic and imported beer categories since 2008, according to Zegler.

Consumer demand for craft beer has likewise increased, with 24 percent of consumers who drink beer indicating they drank more craft beer sold in stores in 2012 compared to 2011. Twenty-two percent report consuming more craft beer in bars or restaurants.

Mintel's research shows that 25- to 34-year-olds are the sweet spot for craft beer. Overall, 36 percent of U.S. consumers drink craft beer vs. 50 percent for Millennials. Craft beer also wins points for flavor, with 43 percent of both Millennial and Generation X consumers stating that it tastes better than domestic beer. By comparison, just 32 percent of Baby Boomers agree that craft beer tastes better.

“Despite the variety of beer releases created by craft breweries, craft beers are not yet everyday beer choices for most drinkers due to a lack of understanding about their taste profiles," Zegler noted. “To continue growing, craft beer must be its own best advocate and expand appeal beyond Millennials, who are most likely to consume craft beer. An additional barrier is lack of knowledge. Craft brewers need to focus on education through tastings and classes that inform consumers about the differentiation in flavor between craft beer and other alcoholic drinks."

Mintel also found that 50 percent of overall craft beer drinkers expressed interest in locally made beer, and 25 percent showed interest in purchasing craft beer where it is brewed. An additional 39 percent said they are influenced to purchase craft beer if they can relate to its personality.

“Buying local is not limited to supporting one’s homebase; it also provides consumers with the ability to support towns that they do not currently call home," Zegler concluded. “To bring that local feel to consumers regardless of location, craft breweries should consider partnering to create multibrewery variety packs that would offer consumers a taste of one city, state or region. These taste-of-an-area packages would allow consumers to experience smaller breweries from their own or other geographies."

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