Beer Institute Shares Results of 2 Consumer Surveys at Annual Meeting

The Beer Institute (BI) unveiled a pair of surveys during the first day of the trade group’s annual meeting in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, indicating public support for many industry issues as well as apathy from young drinkers.

In his opening remarks, BI president and CEO Jim McGreevy shared the results of a poll conducted by Washington, D.C.-based market research firm Morning Consult on several hot button industry issues, including excise tax reform, President Donald Trump’s tariffs on aluminum, FDA menu labeling and voluntary disclosure of serving data.

Following McGreevy’s presentation, BI chief economist Michael Uhrich offered the results of a survey on the attitudes of 21- to 24-year-old consumers toward beer, wine and liquor.

Morning Consult, which polled 2,000 adults ages 21 and up, found that a majority of people — 65 percent — support having a brewery in their neighborhood.

On the issue of tax reform, McGreevy shared that 47 percent of people surveyed said they support federal excise tax relief for brewers, while 20 percent oppose them (33 percent had no opinion). And nearly the same amount of people — 46 percent — said they support extending the cuts beyond 2019 when they’re set to expire.

McGreevy called the lobbying for an extension of the Craft Beverage Modernization and Tax Reform Act beyond 2019 “the job for today and every day for the next year and half.” He also asked brewers to share stories of the investments they are making as a result of the tax savings.

McGreevy also asked industry leaders to share the sacrifices they’ve made due to the 10 percent tariff on aluminum and 25 percent levy on imported steel imposed by President Trump. Sharing those stories, he said, will help stoke support from the public and policymakers.

So far, 38 percent of those polled in the Morning Consult survey said they believe the aluminum tariffs will negatively affect brewers, while 13 percent said they will have a positive impact.

McGreevy also praised the implementation of the U.S. Food & Drug Administration’s new menu labeling requirements. The regulations that went into effect in May require chain restaurants, grocery outlets, and convenience stores with more than 20 locations to post caloric and nutritional information for beer and other food and drinks sold on-premise that are considered “standard menu items.” Those requirements have overwhelming public support, McGreevy said, with 74 percent of those surveyed — and 79 of women polled — saying they’re in favor of information disclosures.

Meanwhile, Uhrich shared data from a separate survey that asked 200, 21- to 24-year-olds about their views on beer, wine and spirits.

The beer industry has relied on the 21- to 24-year-old age group in the past for much of its volume, Uhrich said, and will do so in the future. However, he said, the beer category is facing “big challenges” in reaching those consumers.

Currently, 21- to 24-year-olds account for just 7 percent of the legal-drinking population in the U.S. However, as more young people come of age, their market share more than doubles (24 percent) by 2028.

In the poll of young drinkers, Uhrich said only 25 percent of consumers who drank alcohol agreed with the statement that beer is “for people like me.” That number crept up to 31 percent for consumers who drank alcohol in the last week.

“You would expect these numbers to be higher,” Uhrich told Brewbound in an interview prior to the meeting.

Still, more young drinkers identified with beer as being for them versus wine (21 percent of those who consumed alcohol within last month versus 19 percent of those who consumed alcohol within the last week) and liquor (14 percent of last month and 17 percent of last week).

The poll also asked consumers if beer is “great for all occasions” and found 34 percent of consumers who drank alcohol within the last month and 43 percent of those who consumed within the last week agreed with that statement. Wine tracked close to beer (34 percent last month drinkers and 36 percent of last week), while liquor trailed both (16 percent last month and 24 percent last week).

The image of beer as “a special treat” should also be a concern for the industry, Uhrich said. Only 23 percent of last month consumers and 16 percent of last week consumers said they viewed beer as a special treat. However, more young consumers viewed wine (39 percent last month and 38 percent last week) and liquor (30 percent last month and 34 percent last week) as “special.”

Beer’s image as “sophisticated” also polled extremely low, with just 4 percent of alcohol consumers in the last month and 2 percent of consumers in the last week saying they view beer as sophisticated. Spirits polled very similarly to beer (4 percent last month and 3 percent last week). However, young drinkers polled viewed wine more favorably as sophisticated with 38 percent of last month consumers and 41 percent of last week consumers viewing it as such.

The view of beer as being not special and unsophisticated should concern industry members, Uhrich said. He added that as 21- to 24-year-old consumers graduate, get jobs and have more disposable income, their views of wine and spirits as special treats could be indicative of future purchasing behavior.

So why is beer struggling to reach 21- to 24-year-old consumers? The poll found four reasons for why those who drink beer don’t drink it more often:

  • 44 percent said they don’t like feeling bloated.
  • 44 percent said they prefer different types of alcohol.
  • 42 percent said they prefer options that they view as healthier.
  • 31 percent said they only view beer as good for certain occasions.

Wine and spirits consumers who were polled offered the same reasons for not drinking more beer. For their part, 51 percent of wine and spirits consumers said they don’t like feeling bloated, while 38 percent said they prefer options they view as healthier.

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