International demand for American craft beer is at an all-time high but, much like the trends domestically, growth is slowing.
The Brewers Association — the nonprofit trade organization representing small and independent U.S. craft brewers — today announced that American craft beer exports grew 4.4 percent in 2016, to 465,617 barrels, and had an estimated retail value of $121 million.
“This year’s export data demonstrates that demand is continuing to strengthen for small and independent craft brewers worldwide,” Brewers Association president and CEO Bob Pease said via a press release. “We are proud to be able to open and expand international access to craft beer through the Export Development Program. Just as these brewers have succeeded in elevating craft beer in the U.S., they are now doing the same on a global scale – sharing America’s love for these diverse and innovative flavors the world over.”
The BA characterized the growth as an “all-time high,” estimating that 100 of the organization’s members who participated in the EDP shipped beer internationally last year. The BA credited the program, which launched in 2004, with helping those breweries gain international exposure through “trade shows, festivals, seminars, media outreach and competitions.”
Nevertheless, there are still emerging foreign markets where demand for American craft is growing at a healthy clip. U.S. craft beer exports to Japan grew 22.6 percent last year, according to the BA, compared to just 5 percent growth in 2015.
One U.S. player taking notice of the up-and-coming Japanese market is Brooklyn Brewery, which sold a minority stake to Japan’s Kirin Brewery last year. Brooklyn’s international sales reportedly increased 20 percent last year.
With more than half of the total exports (54.8 percent), Canada remained the top international market for American craft beer. Though the BA had offered growth statistics for Canada and Brazil in previous years, it didn’t include them in this year’s release.
Other top export countries by market share include: The United Kingdom (10.1 percent), Sweden (6.6 percent), Australia (4.6 percent) and China (3.2 percent).
Export growth slowed significantly in Western Europe, however, to just 0.4 percent. That’s compared to 33 percent growth the year prior.
Asia Pacific also saw 12.9 percent growth in 2016.