May 082018

Texas had the highest US volume sales for Schlitz when Stroh took over the brand, an action which created excitement among the wholesalers.  For the first time in a number of years, the wholesalers finally felt they had a chance to right the ship with the Schlitz brand, while at the same time obtaining a major brand in Stroh’s.

In a very short time, however, it became apparent that not only was there no improvement, business, in fact, was getting worst.  There were numerous statewide Schlitz/Stroh meetings that provided the wholesales ample opportunities to meet with Peter Stroh to discuss the issues.  The wholesalers, however, were never allowed to express their concerns as most of the Stroh management was composed of left-over Schlitz leaders who did not want Peter Stroh to be available to the wholesalers.

Not that it would have made any difference in the outcome, but after all these years, one wonders what the results might have been if the wholesalers could have made an impact with Peter Stroh.

This year’s Craft Brewers Conference in Nashville welcomed about 14,000 attendees.  It was once again, a tremendous turnout!

The CBC, and to a great degree, the NBWA, have consistently had the same program, the same speakers and the same schedule year after year with only industry statistics changing.  So, annually, attendees hear the same message with the only new input coming from the touting of changes in the industry trends.  While the craft segment is shifting, one would not be aware of such movement simply by listening to the speakers.

As with most companies, if one wanted to learn the real trends and happenings, one must listen to the employees, or in this case, to the craft vendors.  This year the vendors were very happy with the overall turnout and the number of leads they acquired, however, several trends were quite apparent.

With the overall slowing of the craft segment, one could not help but notice the absence of PE firms, banks, lawyers and accountants who in the past were there with the intent of securing a craft beer presence.  This is not to say that all from said group were absent, but their presence was noticeably less than in past years.

The one area that was almost totally absent this year, after a major presence in previous years, was the college-taught craft programs.  The usual brewing schools were present and focused on brewing skills, including Cal-Davis and Middle Tennessee State, however, no schools that focused on the business aspect of the craft industry were at the conference.

So the question is, does the absence of those institutes of high learning that focused on the business aspect of the industry indicate that either: one, the schools are so full they do not need to market such programs; or two, does it mean that with the slowing of the craft brewing segment there are fewer students enrolling?  Many of the schools at the conference had a representative present, but the effort was greatly reduced from that at past conferences.

If as recently reported, the real growth in crafts is with those brewers who started after 2014, it would then seem that the schools should be more into marketing than before.  Without the skill-set needed, those new brewers will not be around for long.

If one wants to know what is really happening in crafts, just go to the exhibition floor, the vendors will tell you.

Don’t find fault, find a remedy.

 Posted by at 6:00 am

  One Response to “Don’t find fault, find a remedy.”

  1. Big beer has done an admirable job at publicizing the supposed slow down of craft. They are marketing machines that have large influence over social channels. In reality, craft “slowing down” is misleading for two reasons:

    1. Some of the largest craft brands have been acquired by large beer conglomerates. Because of this, their sales numbers no longer count as craft. Think Ballast Point, Lagunitas, Elysian – they were already the biggest craft brands and also growing the fastest – hence they got bought out. Now to strip their numbers out of the total craft segment numbers is misleading!

    2. Most of the fastest growing craft brands sell direct to consumers from their breweries. (Think Treehouse, Trillium, Tired Hands, etc…) Because they sell direct to consumers, their sales are not tracked! There is no way for Nielsen or IRI to track the sales and the breweries certainly aren’t publicizing it. Thousands – literally thousands – of craft breweries are selling direct to consumers. To not be able to count their volume is also misleading.

    When you put these two factors together, of course the total craft sales numbers are going to look like a slow down! If there was a way to normalize the data and have a fair measurement, I would venture to guess that craft continues to grow at warp speed and already accounts for well over 20% of the total US beer volume.

    Mark Twain said it best, “The reports of my death are greatly exaggerated.”

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