98% of consumers say big brewers can’t make craft beer

By Nikkie Sutton

- Last updated on GMT

Major call by minority: just 2% of consumers think craft beer could be made by a global brewer
Major call by minority: just 2% of consumers think craft beer could be made by a global brewer
Global brewers such as AB InBev, Molson Coors and Heineken can’t make craft beer, 98% of consumers have said in a new report.

The Society of Independent Brewers (SIBA) British Craft Beer Report 2019​ pulled together existing consumer and industry research alongside newly commissioned surveying of consumers and independent brewers, and was launched at the association’s BeerX trade show in Liverpool.

SIBA chief executive Mike Benner said: “Craft beer is the biggest thing to happen to the beer market in a generation, with more interest in quality beer than ever before.

“This new research clearly shows consumers believe craft beer comes from small independent brewers and not the global beer companies.

“Just 2% of consumers surveyed said craft beer could be made by a global brewer, whereas 43% – by far the largest group – said craft beer is made by small breweries.”

SIBA’s YouGov survey, which was carried out in February 2019 as part of the report and included 2,000 consumers, asked respondents what the term ‘craft’ meant to them.

The results supported previous research on the subject, which indicates that while there are multiple definitions of ‘craft’, there are some important common themes to its meaning.

Importance of size

While the largest proportion of those surveyed said craft beer should be made by a small brewer (43%), the next most popular answer, of 42%, said the brewery must be independent – a number that shows it is significantly more important than the brewery being local to the consumer, which was chosen by just 23%.

Benner added: “The most striking thing about the survey results is the clarity with which consumers see the importance of the brewery’s size when defining ‘craft beer’, as opposed to the brewery simply being local to them.

“People are used to buying beers from across the UK in their favourite pub, bar or retailers and, for them, it is the size and independence of that brewery that defines whether or not it is a craft beer.”

The British Craft Beer Report ​also aims to explore how the continuing growth in popularity of craft beer has led to the global beer companies increasingly targeting the ‘craft’ segment of the market in two ways.

The report stated these were buying out previously independent craft breweries such as Camden, Meantime and Fourpure, or launching their own beers marketed as craft such as Maltsmiths beers from Heineken or Hop House 13 from Guinness and Diageo.

Benner said: “SIBA launched the Assured Independent British Craft Brewer seal as a way of differentiating beer from truly independent craft brewers from the mass-produced products of global brands – many of which are now being marketed as craft.

“This new research shows if consumers were fully aware of what they were buying then they wouldn’t consider any beers from the global beer companies as craft, something that is hugely important for supporting and growing the independent beer market.”

Seal of authenticity

However, protecting the authenticity of craft beer isn’t something that is only held dear in the UK. The Brewers Association in the US, as well as independent brewing trade associations in Europe, also have their own independent brewers seals.

“Consumers can now find the seal on pump clips, bottles and cans to help them choose truly independent craft beers and better inform them about the provenance of the products they drink,” Benner said.

SIBA said one third of its members now use its seal on pump clips or keg fonts, with many more looking to add it soon because more than 85% of brewers are now aware of the campaign.

The trend of drinkers choosing local products is growing according to SIBA and it is one of the key consumer trends highlighted by analysts Mintel in its Global Trends ​report 2018, which was used as a source for the British Craft Beer Report​.

Indications show the next generation of Millennials and, even more so, Generation Z will have a growing interest in local product as well as artisanal businesses.

Mintel Global New Products Database research for 2018 showed almost half (44%) of UK beer drinkers would like to see a certification for craft beer in the UK to show what is and what is not truly a small brewers’ craft beer.

The SIBA YouGov survey carried out in 2017 found more than two thirds (69%) of consumers thought it would be useful to see the Assured Independent British Craft Brewer logo on beer pump clips, bottles and cans, in order to identify the beer as being brewed by a truly independent craft brewer, rather than a global beer company.

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