Europe dominates in craft beer innovation

By Nikkie Sutton

- Last updated on GMT

New product surge: more than half (54%) of craft beer launches originated in Europe in 2017
New product surge: more than half (54%) of craft beer launches originated in Europe in 2017
Europe is taking a global leadership role in craft beer innovation, according to new research from analysts Mintel.

The data experts’ global new products database found that in 2013, North America (and the US particularly) dominated the global craft beer market, accounting for more than half (52%) of all craft beer retail launches, compared to less than one third (29%) for Europe.

However, over the past five years, this has changed significantly as in 2017, 54% of launches originated in Europe and just 19% in North America.

Since then, Europe’s craft beer scene has experienced huge growth with new craft beer product launches more than doubling, experiencing growth of 178%.

While the US is still the single most innovative market globally, according to Mintel, with 17% of all global craft beer launches originating there in 2017, six of the top 10 most innovative markets are in Europe.

Mintel food and drink associate director Jonny Forsyth said: “Over the past few years, interest in craft beer has migrated from the US into the UK and now into continental Europe."

Opportunities for manufacturers

“Our research suggests Europeans are embracing craft beer because they are looking for new, more exciting offerings compared to their usual beer options, especially in markets such as Germany, where brewers and beer styles have remained unchanged for centuries," he added.

“While markets like Germany, Belgium and the Czech Republic are still dominated by their own beer styles, when it comes to innovation, consumer interest in craft beers is already there and offers ample opportunities for manufacturers.”

Almost two-thirds of beer drinkers in Poland (64%), 63% in France, 61% in Italy and 50% in Germany are interested in trying different types of craft beer, such as Indian Pale Ales or other pale ales, which are already commonplace in the more mature UK craft beer market.

Europeans are also willing to spend more on craft beer. About half of beer consumers in Italy (52%), 51% in France, 46% in Germany and 45% in the UK agree that craft beer is ‘worth the extra money’.

Forsyth said: “Craft is the ‘new premium’ in beer, and consumers are happy to pay more for smaller batch, more hand-crafted options, rather than those that are mass produced.

“For those consumers, craft beer taps into their desire for new experiences with a nod to the past for inspiration, offering new beer styles they have never drunk before.”


However, the research found European consumers do not care too much about the difference between a ‘true craft’ beer (Mintel states the definition as small, independent) or a ‘craft-like’ brand owned by big global brewers.

Nearly half (45%) of Spanish drinkers said it was not clear what makes a beer craft and less than one fifth (17%) of German beer consumers said it would impact their purchase decision if a craft brand was owned by a large company.

This suggests an uphill challenge for true craft manufacturers, but it wasn’t all bad news for them, as 44% of UK beer drinkers would like to see a system of certification of craft beer.

Forsyth added: “The term ‘craft’ lacks a formal definition, which has enabled larger beer companies to capitalise on the craft boom, either by launching their own craft style products or acquiring craft breweries, challenging what ‘craft’ really means for this industry.

“This practice of big brewers swallowing up profitable, smaller craft operators shows no signs of slowing down.

“An industry-wide definition could be helpful to smaller manufacturers and welcomed by European consumers, as many beer drinkers want greater clarity and assistance in navigating the category.”

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