09 October 2018, 11:46 AM
  • While North America has an undeniable fascination with craft beer, research by Mintel shows it has finally been overtaken in the innovation department
2018: the year of craft beer (for Europe)

Craft beer has been in the European market for years, but it was its popularity in the United States that brought it into the global limelight. In 2013, North America and particularly the US, accounted for 52% of all craft beer retail launches, states research by Mintel Global New Products Database, a sum which makes the 29% of launches that Europe claimed that year seem paltry at least. But the tides have changed. In 2017, 54% of launches came from Europe while only 19% originated in North America. Since 2013, Europe’s craft beer scene has experienced growth of 178%. Six out of the top ten innovative craft beer markets are in Europe (although giving the United State its credit, it is still the most innovative craft beer market in the world, accounting for 17% of global craft beer launches).

In response to the research, associate director of Mintel Food & Drink Jonny 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 these consumers, craft beer taps into their desire for new experiences with a nod to the past for inspiration, offering new beer styles that they have never drunk before.”

Between a reliance on its already-established pub culture and the rising popularity of craft beers, the UK has made a name for itself in the global craft beer market. The interest in craft beer travelled from the US to the UK, with the UK rated as the third most innovative craft beer market in the world, accounting for 8% of craft been launches. Research by the Bank of America Merrill Lynch found that the UK has the highest number of breweries per capita in the world, having tripled in number over the last eight years. Frederik Kampman, chief botanical officer of Lowlander Beer Co, says, “the growth of craft beer is the result of increasing demand from the consumer. They want more choice and, above all, better quality and better flavour, things independent and young craft breweries can offer. UK-specific we see a great culture in and growth of the high end speciality food and drink market, as well as a flourishing spirits/ cocktail scene.”

When it comes to appreciation, craft beer is given a top spot with 45% of UK beer-drinkers agreeing that craft beer ‘is worth the extra money’. One of the areas of contention is what makes a beer ‘craft beer’, with large percentages of European consumers revealing a disinterest in whether craft beer is produced independently or is craft-like and made by big brands. However, it is a priority for UK consumers, with 44% saying they would like there to be a certification system for craft beer. According to Kampman, “the explosive growth of the [craft beer] category [means it is] hard for consumers to distinguish quality from mass”, so a verification system would be helpful in defining what the term “craft” entails.

The craft beer scene has become so established in the UK that it is beginning to branch off into sectors, niches. The low-to-no alcohol trend and the craft beer trend have, in the past few years, merged, with no alcohol craft beer a rising trend in the sector. According to Rob Fink, the founder of no-alcohol craft beer brewery Big Drop, when the company first started in 2016, it was the only non-alcoholic craft beer on the market, but in the last year, non-alcoholic craft beer has met rising popularity. “New wave craft beer started in this country probably around 10 years ago. You had the likes of Brewdog, Meantime, Camden Town, Thornbridge. If you look around at what’s happened in the last 12 months,” Fink says, “there as been an explosion in alcohol-free craft beer. I think since we started, we’ve seen another three companies start who are dedicated just to alcohol-free, and you’ve seen the likes of Thornbridge put out an alcohol-free pale ale, Adnams have released an alcohol-free beer.” According to Fink, even macrobreweries, the bigger companies that produce mainstream beer, have been affected by the trend with Heineken working hard on its 0.0 campaign.

Fink says, “I think craft beer is making people think more about what it is that they’re drinking, appreciating beer as something that is more than something to get drunk off of.”

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