CRAFT BEER IN SUPERMARKETS
A couple of weeks ago I was going to attend a friend's birthday celebration. It was a surprise party, so on the way there we decided to stop at a supermarket on the way to buy some beers.
Every time I shop in a supermarket, I usually browse their craft beer selection - including those that pass themselves off as such - although to date, I have never been in favor of acquiring craft beer in large supermarkets. Lack of habit and poor offer, I suppose.
But the truth is that on this occasion, seeing shelves full of references of Montseny, Espiga, Vic Brewery and Stone at more than reasonable prices - € 2 approx. - was highly satisfying. Especially because it gave us the opportunity to find affordable and good quality beers in an easy and convenient way.
We all know that the craft beer industry is changing. The interest of the general consumer in quality beer continues to increase, and that is why there are more and more retail chains that choose to add craft beers in their portfolios. But is this good, or bad?
THE IDEAL SCENARIO
Imagine the ideal scenario. One where supermarkets would act as a bridge to the world of craft beer. And in which new consumers, after discovering that there are much more interesting options within reach of what they have known to date, decide to try more beers, find new references and obtain more information about the product. This could lead them to buy their beers directly from the breweries, to visit their tap rooms or specialized bottle shops.
The problem, however, is that on many occasions finding craft beers in supermarkets at lower prices - covered in discounts and ridiculous margins that are compensated with large sales volumes - can lead us to a distorted view of the cost of the beer. A misconception that if it were to spread, it would force such a drop in prices that many small breweries and independent bottle shops could not survive.
AN OPPORTUNITY FOR BOTTLE SHOPS
In any case it seems clear that the increase in the presence of craft beers on the supermarket shelves will attract more people to the world of craft beer. And that's something that specialized stores that have contributed so much and continue to contribute through education and expanding the voice within the sector, have to take advantage of.
The service, the variety of references, the care of the product and the abundant knowledge of the professionals who run the specialized craft beer bottle shops, are aspects which the supermarkets can hardly compete against.
Because when the simple act of going to buy a few beers turns into a pleasant chat with someone who knows what he is talking about, who advises you according to your tastes and who’s eyes shine bright when they share the new additions that have arrived to the shop, the experience as a consumer becomes much more complete and satisfactory, at least for me personally. In addition, the mere fact of offering a real relationship and trust in the “Amazon age”, is what makes the difference.
THE PATH OF CRAFT BEER BREWERIES
There are plenty of arguments on the advantages or disadvantages around the entry of craft beers in supermarkets, and logically, these vary depending on who is voicing them. It is true that there are many unsolved questions, but only the passage of time will allow us to see how the industry is adapting to the changes and the constant evolution of the sector.
But above all I consider that this circumstance opens a very interesting door to independent craft breweries, offering them the possibility of expanding their business in a very competitive market.
Choosing one path does not have to mean completely leaving the others. This will depend more on the strategy of each brewery and/or its vision as a business.
The paradigmatic example of this duality is found in markets that are more mature than ours here in Spain, such as the North American one, where it is common to find beers by independent craft brewers in chains such as Whole Foods Market or Trader Joe’s.
Moreover, for those who have the opportunity to take advantage of a gap in the retail sector and has sufficient capacity to produce large volumes of accessible beers by adjusting costs without having to renounce experimentation, innovation and the creation of smaller batches with recipes focused on specialized stores and the experienced beer aficionado, it seems an adequate and intelligent strategy. The evolution remains to be seen.