Thursday, September 22, 2011

A Bud in the hand is worth Two in the Busch

In Gene's last post "State of the World Address," he briefly talked about a fascinating article called "The Eight Beers Americans No Longer Drink." Since you've had a few days to intensely study the article, update your portfolio accordingly, and modify your beer shopping behavior I thought I could risk spoiling the surprise and discuss the article in a little more depth.

I disagree with the statement that "...sales of the top 20 brands dropped 10 million barrels to 149 million, a sign that Americans have turned to craft beers and imports," because a 6.3% drop over 5 years across an industry doesn't seem to indicate a sea change in preferences to me (but I'm no economist.) While it's true that micro brews have been gaining ground in grocery stores like whole foods, in the media, and at local bars and taprooms we need to keep in mind that most of the beer consumed in this country is still probably bought in a 12-pack of cans quickly pounded down in a frat house, bar with "$1 specials," stadium, or Walmart parking lot.

As I was reading through the list, ranked from most sales lost to least sales lost this past year I kept thinking to myself  "yeah, it makes sense that that crap lost sales," but I quickly realized that the entire list of "that crap" could have been in any order and I would have thought the same thing. What builds brand loyalty among the Miller, Bud, Coors, or Craft crowd? I'd like to think that it's the quality of the product and flavor, but I suspect marketing has more to do with it (especially if you're not part of the Craft crowd.) 

Are you looking for a cold beer? Coors. Are you looking for a crisp beer? Miller. Do you want the old standby "King of Beers"? Bud. None of that has anything to do with taste (but you might argue it has everything to do with poor taste.) At least the Craft crowd tries to tempt you with their sheer variety but I suspect that building a bias into beer bloggers, the media, and the general public is the real long game here.

Will it be successful? Can a group of disconnected independent brewers undermine a long established American industry? I want to believe so, and I suspect not. It's no surprise to me that Michelob (WTF is Michelob?) lost 72% of its sales over the last 4 years; it just got voted off the island. The article is a little misleading however, I suspect that the market share lost by Michelob was picked up by other national brands more-so than craft.

The crowd we don't often discuss but who probably make up a good portion (if not the majority) of beer drinkers are those who just want to drink a bunch of beer until they get drunk and fall asleep. Is that part of the market ever going over to craft beer? I don't think so; it seems to me that the national brands will always have that niche covered (as the nation's de facto drug dealers.)

Do you think that craft beer can ever takeover the market and still maintain its identity? Is there enough room on the shelves to have enough variety to represent all the small regional brewers? I honestly don't know. Let me know your thoughts in the comments below!

1 comment:

  1. In the same place where you found the Michelob photo, you'll find out what if means... Michelob is a 5% abv pale lager developed by Adolphus Busch in 1896 as a "draught beer for connoisseurs".[8] It was named after Michelob, a Bohemian village near Saaz, in the region famous for its Saaz hops.