How to Survive Changes in the Craft Beer Industry

Friday, May 12, 2017

While the craft beer industry continues to grow overall, it might come to many that most (60%) craft beer brands are actually declining in volume (see analysis by the Brewers Association’s Bart Watson here). As more breweries open, competition for shelf space and tap handles is getting even more difficult.

Adding to the difficulty is the impact of big beer’s acquisitions of craft breweries. First, those acquired brewers get addition distribution, marketing, and sales support from the parent company’s existing networks (which means they get more shelf space and craft breweries have less available). Next, with the resulting growth, big beer can use their economies of scale to lock in sought-after hops supplies and other ingredients, making it more expensive for craft brewers to make the same beer. And then, big beer can drive down pricing of their acquired brands, making it harder for craft brewers to even maintain existing pricing despite increased costs. [Read a remarkable article by Creature Comforts Brewing’s Chris Herron on this and additional insights on the motivations and impact of big beer buying craft brewers:]

To survive all these industry changes and to stand out from the crowd, craft brewers must focus on running their brewery as efficiently and professionally as possible. They have to research and implement best practices across the company (logistics, supply chain, branding & marketing, employee retention, brewery management systems, quality assurance, etc.).

The great part about the industry is that craft brewers continue to be open to collaborating and sharing information. There are also great resources available for members of the Brewers Association. And one easy way to network with several experts at once is to attend a conference. The CBC has plenty of presentations which can help. The only trouble is actually connecting with those speakers and experts among 13,000+ others.

Another opportunity to really focus on this is to attend the Brewery Business Conference in Asheville on June 5 & 6, 2017 ( We will cover most, if not all, of the topics mentioned above. And with only about 100 attendees, it will be very easy to connect with and talk to experts in whatever area you are looking for help. Check out the agenda to see if there are any areas in which you might like to learn more. There is a remarkable lineup of experts participating in the conference. I hope you can join us.

Pete Cook