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Craft Beer Will Keep Growing & Here’s Why

CHICAGO — Once 2015 draws to a close, craft beer is predicted to see 22-percent dollar sales growth for the year, bringing the category to $24 billion in sales, according to new research from Mintel. The segment has also seen an 83-percent increase in its share of the U.S. beer market in a five-year period, going from 4.5-percent share in 2009 to 8.5 percent in 2014, while overall beer volume fell by 2 percent during the same timeframe.

The craft beer segment is currently in a state of growth as new breweries and brew pubs launch, and distribution markets expand.

"Craft beer sales are predicted to grow in 2015, further increasing market share, as the result of a perfect storm of factors, including an engaged consumer base interested in trying new products; a savvier group of shoppers invested in where their products come from and how they are made; and a market that responded with an elevated version of a familiar product that ticks all the boxes," stated Beth Bloom, food and drink analyst for Mintel.

Consumption of craft beer increased from 14 percent in 2011 to 19 percent in 2015 among U.S. consumers. Although this is a positive sign, Mintel noted that craft consumption is still dwarfed by that of beer overall, which sees 46-percent penetration among U.S. consumers. At the same time, consumption of regular (not light or low-calorie) domestic beer fell from 28 percent in 2011 to 24 percent in 2015, which indicates opportunities for craft to increase its category share.

One strength of craft beer is its role as an entry point among less-likely beer drinks, including women. While females aged 22-plus are significantly less likely than men to drink beer overall (49 percent vs. 73 percent respectively), the gap is considerably smaller when it comes to craft beer, at 14 percent of women vs, 20 percent of men, according to Mintel's findings.

A more expansive craft flavor profile may be one factor behind this. Among beer drinkers aged 22-plus, women (26 percent) are more likely than men (23 percent) to be interested in trying seasonal brews. Women are also more likely to have tried fruit-flavored beers (42 percent of women vs 39 percent of men). Twenty percent of craft beer launches in 2015 carried the seasonal claim, according to the Mintel Global New Products Database.

"Craft consumption has grown over the last five years due, in part, to an expansion of offerings and purchase channels that increase both access and awareness. While craft beer consumption remains modest in comparison to beer overall, craft has the potential to chip away share from other beer segments, including lighter beer offerings. It's perceived as more affordable than imports, and with the proper promotion of lighter styles, may appeal to light beer drinkers," Bloom added. "What's more, lighter craft offerings can appeal for sessionability, for diversifying drinking occasions, and may be perceived by some consumers to be a healthier alcohol alternative."

Preserving craft beer's performance will require expanding the consumer base. Twenty-two percent of Americans aged 22 and older who drink beer consider themselves knowledgeable about beer, with that figure rising to 28 percent among millennials. However, while 61 percent of U.S. consumers aged 22-plus drink beer, just 17 percent drinks craft. And only 10 percent of beer drinks say that craft beer is easy to find.

A slower growth rate is projected through 2020 due to consumers turning to an expanding range of alcohol options; craft-style launches from larger brewers; and craft brewery acquisitions by larger beverage companies, Mintel cited.

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