According to the latest research from Mintel, craft beer is predicted to see 22 percent dollar sales growth in 2015, moving the category to $24 billion. Craft beer made up 8.5 percent of volume sales of the beer category overall in 2014, up from 4.5 percent in 2009, representing an 83 percent increase, while beer volume overall declined by 2 percent during the same time period. A slower rate of growth is projected through 2020 due to consumers turning to an expanding range of alcohol options, craft-style launches from larger brewers, and craft brewery acquisitions by larger beverage companies.

The craft beer category is in a state of growth, with new breweries/brewpubs coming online and the expansion of distribution markets. What’s more, 22 percent of Americans age 22+ who drink beer consider themselves knowledgeable about beer, increasing to 28 percent of Millennials. Preserving performance will require expanding the consumer base. While 61 percent of US consumers aged 22+ drink beer, only 17 percent drink craft., and only 10 percent of beer drinkers consider craft beer easy to find.

22% of beer drinking Americans age 22+ consider themselves knowledgeable about beer

“Craft beer sales are predicted to grow in 2015, further increasing market share, as the result of a perfect storm of factors, including an engaged consumer base interested in trying new products; a savvier group of shoppers invested in where their products come from and how they are made; and a market that responded with an elevated version of a familiar product that ticks all the boxes,” said Beth Bloom, Food & Drink Analyst at Mintel. A slower growth rate is projected through 2020 due to ever-evolving consumer tastes, increased competition from larger brewers and inevitable craft acquisitions. Translating beer drinkers into craft drinkers will require increasing trial and further expanding availability.”

Craft gains on domestic beer; finds fanbase in female drinkers

Craft consumption grew from 14 percent in 2011 to 19 percent in 2015 among US consumers 21+. While a positive sign, craft consumption is still dwarfed by that of beer overall, which sees 46 percent penetration among this group. However, consumption of regular (not light or low-cal) domestic beer declined from 28 percent in 2011 to 24 percent in 2015 among respondents 21+, indicating opportunities for craft to increase its share of the category.

Expanding product lines to include light varieties and promoting the lighter flavor profiles of already existing styles (eg Pilsner, Kolsch) could be just what the segment needs to lure additional consumers to craft. While Mintel research shows that sales of light beer have been on the decline in the beer category overall, falling from 52 percent in 2009 to 47 percent in 2014, it’s still the leading beer type consumed among Americans age 22+ (35 percent). Light beer finds particular interest among Millennial (49 percent) and Hispanic (59 percent) beer drinkers.

26% of beer drinking women age 22+ are interested in trying seasonal brews

A strength of the craft beer category is its role as a point of entry among less likely beer drinkers, including women. Whereas women aged 22+ are significantly less likely than men to drink beer overall (49 percent of women vs 73 percent of men), the gap is much smaller when it comes to the consumption of craft (14 percent of women vs 20 percent of men). A more expansive craft flavor profile may be one reason for this. Mintel research indicates that among beer drinkers age 22+ women (26 percent) are more likely than men (23 percent) to be interested in trying seasonal brews and are more likely to have tried fruit-flavored beers (42 percent of women vs 39 percent of men). According to Mintel Global New Products Database (GNPD), 20 percent of craft beer launches in 2015 carried the seasonal claim.

“Craft consumption has grown over the last five years due, in part, to an expansion of offerings and purchase channels that increases both access and awareness. While craft beer consumption remains modest in comparison to beer overall, craft has the potential to chip away share from other beer segments, including lighter beer offerings. It’s perceived as more affordable than imports, and with the proper promotion of lighter styles, may appeal to light beer drinkers. What’s more,  lighter craft offerings can appeal for sessionability, for diversifying drinking occasions, and may be perceived by some consumers to be a healthier alcohol alternative,” concluded Bloom.

Press copies of the Craft Beer US 2015 report and interviews with Beth Bloom, Food & Drink Analyst, are available on request from the press office.

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