Survey: Craft Beer Consumers Are Casual, Dual Drinkers

CHICAGO — The craft beer segment is growing increasingly competitive as both large and small brewers compete for the attention of the 23 percent of consumers who report drinking craft beer, but competition isn't restricted to craft. Mintel research shows that 83 percent of those who drink craft beer also drink non-craft beer.

U.S. craft beer drinkers are also 49 percent more likely to associate craft beer consumption with casual events than with formal events, making it a good fit for celebratory events such as St. Patrick's Day. Craft consumption is highest among those ages 25-34 at 29 percent, while younger drinkers ages 22-24 prefer domestic beer at 46 percent, according to Mintel's survey.

"This suggests that new drinkers may take a couple of years to become interested in craft beer," stated Mintel Food and Drink Analyst Beth Bloom. "The appreciation of the craft nature of the category is evident in the fact that drinkers of craft offerings are significantly less likely than drinkers of regular domestic beer to say the purpose of drinking is to get drunk."

Sales of craft beer reached an estimated $20 billion in 2014, doubling the sales level of just five years ago, and the segment is expected to reach $36.3 billion by 2019, according to Bloom.

This steady growth comes in part from the 55 percent of consumers who say they are willing to spend more for craft beer than non-craft, which may come from strong ties between craft beer and personal image. Fifteen percent say they are influenced to try a new beer when they see people who are similar to themselves drinking it, and 44 percent of craft beer drinkers take pride in trying as many different kinds as they can. Additionally, the majority of beer drinkers aged 22-34 believe that brand and style of beer says a lot about a person, which highlights the value the age group places on image.

Craft beer drinkers in general are more likely than those who drink non-craft to say that they are knowledgeable about beer, with 53 percent saying they like to share their knowledge with others. However, women who drink beer are significantly less likely than men who drink beer to consider themselves knowledgeable. Only 17 percent of U.S. women drink craft beer, compared to 29 percent of men.

Mintel's Craft Beer – US 2014 report shows that 53 percent of craft beer drinkers partake to relax, with 63 percent of those ages 22-44 saying the same, and half of craft beer drinkers consume beer as a personal reward or treat. While most drink craft beer with others, nearly one third of surveyed consumers do so by themselves, and those ages 22-44 are significantly more likely than older respondents to drink by themselves. Nearly half of consumers are twice as likely to associate craft beer consumption with casual events than with formal gatherings.

When it comes to location, fewer craft beer drinkers prefer drinking at home instead of a restaurant or bar than do general beer drinks.

"Craft products are perceived to be more expensive than general beer offerings," said Bloom. "For this reason, consumers may not be interested in purchasing bulk packages for consumption at home. Having one or two beers at a restaurant may appear as a more affordable means of trial."

Top factors that craft brew drinkers consider when making a selection include style (51 percent) and full-bodied flavor. Other factors include familiar taste (32 percent) and familiar terminology on the packaging (30 percent). Millennial beer drinkers are significantly more likely to try products they've never had before and to take recommendations from store employees and friends. 

"While brand awareness rises to the top of factors driving purchase among overall beer drinkers, craft beer drinkers are a bit more discerning and most likely to say beer style —  such as an (Indian Pale Ale) or stout — is important in product selection," Bloom said. "This focus on style and flavor is a major element that differentiates a craft beer drinker from the rest."

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