Commentary: Affordable 'Luxury'
Sept 19, 2008 - A lot of gloom and doom out there. Higher prices across the board, consumer spending down, volatile stock market and bad economic news just about every day.
And yet, the craft beer market continues to thrive. OK, maybe not boom like it has the past few years. But it is thriving. Mid-year numbers from the Brewers Association pegged growth for craft up six and a half percent. And that is with dramatically higher pricing due to the increased cost of hops, barley and just plain doing business. Attention retailers; dollar sales were up 11% in the same period.
Yes, we have all heard that even in hard times, alcohol continues to do well. It's an "affordable luxury" when people aren't able to go out to dinner, movies, shows and other forms of entertainment. But, my worry was that people would spend 'down' when it came to beer. Instead of the $9.89 craft beer six-pack, I thought many would trade down to a $6.99 domestic. Not so say the numbers. Seems to me that most consumers are saving those few bucks elsewhere - and continuing to treat themselves to a good craft beer. Even the new high-end craft; those barrel-aged, strong, big beautiful flavor bombs, Belgium-style 750's and other esoteric styles seem to be maintaining strong sales as well.
This is good news. Our industry has long ago surpassed the "fad" stage. Heck we're into our second, almost third generation of craft beer drinker. Craft is here to stay - amongst all the consolidation, price increases, the zillion attempts by the majors to replicate our brands - and now we are surviving hard economic times.
Craft beer has revolutionized the beer industry not only in the US, but to a certain extent in other parts of the world as well.
Geez, was the stock market down 500 plus points the other day? Think I'll have another good beer.