Evaluating Your Label Amidst a Growing Craft Beer Market

If you have noticed an uptick of competition in the craft beer aisle of your local beer distributor, you are certainly not imagining anything. According to a recent report from the Brewers Association, the craft beer market experienced a record setting year in 2014, successfully grabbing 11 percent share of the overall market.

From a high-level perspective, this is great news for craft brewers. Americans have outgrown the traditional light lager, and are openly embracing the wide array of taste and sophistication the craft beer market has to offer.

While this growth is, of course, great, it is important for craft breweries to realize that this success also translates directly to increased competition, competition that simply did not exist just a few short years ago.

The Impact of 3,400 Craft Brewers and Counting

Did you know that as recently as 1979 there were only 44 breweries operating in the United States? For many of us, that number appears unimaginably low when you consider that any number of today’s local grocery stores appear to have more than 44 beer brands crowding their shelves.

In fact, according to the Brewers Association, there are now more than 3,400 brewers operating in the United States. It’s also important to note that while the craft beer landscape is experiencing a meteoric rise, the overall beer market is reaching a bit of a plateau.

As Brat Watson, Chief Economist, Brewers Association points out, “With the total beer market up only 0.5 percent in 2014, craft brewers are key in keeping the overall industry innovative and growing. This steady growth shows that craft brewing is part of a profound shift in American beer culture—a shift that will help craft brewers achieve their ambitious goal of 20 percent market share by 2020.”

The Importance of Your Label in an Increasingly Competitive Market

What all this means is that the modern American beer industry is a landscape defined by increasing competition and diversity. This is great news if you are a craft brewer, looking to step out from the shadow created by the big beer brands.

However, from a consumer’s perspective, this diversity can cause a bit of confusion. Not too long ago, say in the 1990s, differentiating yourself as a craft beer brand was much easier. Your brand was the one that stood out on a shelf filled with light lagers.

Today, setting yourself apart is certainly not as easy. As the competition continues to crowd the shelves, beer brands are more readily relying on the appearance of their label to make that all important first impression. As New Belgium PR director Bryan Simpson stated in an interview with bon appetit, “Labels provide people with a reason to give a beer a second look and perhaps try something they’ve walked past for years.”

So, be sure to consider the effects of this growing marketplace as you evaluate the overall impact of your label. Does it standout amidst a crowd of increasing competition?