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Specialty beers, local craft-brewed products, hard ciders and new hard
sodas are brightening up the beer aisle. BY RICHARD TURCSIK
ARTISANAL & CRAFTS
Thanks to the continued growth and pop- ularity of upscale craft beers and their hard cider and new hard soda cousins, the beer category has a healthy head on its shoulders.
Craft beers have become so popular with
consumers that major manufacturers, including Anheuser-Busch and MillerCoors, are
snatching up the small, artisanal brewers by
the caseload and dramatically expanding their
distribution into new markets.
Anheuser-Busch parent, ABInBev, which
is seeking to merge with MillerCoors, has
acquired six craft beer companies in the past
five years, the most recent being Tempe, Ariz.-
based Four Peaks Brewing Co., producer of
Tilted Kilt beer. Heineken has entered the
domestic craft beer industry by acquiring
an interest in Lagunitas Brewing Co., based
in Petaluma, Calif., and the nation’s fifth
largest craft brewer. Heineken is seeking to
drive worldwide growth of the Lagunitas
portfolio as demand for U.S. craft beers grows
around the world, say company officials.
The major brewers are also establishing their
own “craft” products under labels that make
no note of ownership by the parent company.
The newest component of the craft-brewing
industry—hard sodas—is attracting female
and Millennial of-age consumers to the beer
aisle in droves, in the process winning back
some of the sales that have been lost to the
wine and spirits/mixed drinks categories in
recent years, say industry observers.
“Craft beers, while still extremely profitable
and enjoying healthy growth, experienced some
challenges in 2015 from flavored, sweet new
product introductions,” says Bump Williams,
CEO and president of BWC (Bump Williams
Consulting), based in Stratford, Conn.
“However, with 4,100-plus craft breweries in America today, the popularity of ‘local,’
the high multiples being paid for independent
craft breweries, and the unbelievably strong
and creative new styles and packaging being
launched every day in brew pubs and tasting rooms where consumers can take home a
growler of their favorite beer, I see no end in
sight to the health and wellness of craft and
high-end beers in 2016,” Williams says.
One of the originators of the craft beer segment is The Boston Beer Co., brewer of the