Want to know what keeps craft brewers up at night?
Here’s the short list: Taking care of employees, staying relevant, fighting for shelf space, differentiating brands in the marketplace, creating value for wholesalers and retailers, competing against taproom-focused breweries as well as corporately held brands, and the continued flood of new category entrants.
Considering those responses, which were provided to Brewbound by attendees of the 2018 Craft Brewers Conference, held earlier this month in Nashville, Tennessee, it’s a miracle that brewery owners get any sleep at all these days.
Through April 22, craft beer volume sales are up just 2.7 percent, according to market research firm IRI Worldwide.
And while the broader off-premise retail trends might appear soft, smaller companies that have entered the market between 2014 and 2017 are growing like gangbusters. According to Brewers Association (BA) chief economist Bart Watson, breweries founded after 2014 collectively added 916,000 barrels to the category in 2017, which represents growth of 52.6 percent versus 2016.
Breweries founded before 2014, however, added 285,000 barrels to the craft segment and collectively grew just 1.3 percent.
“You are never going to be new again, when you are 29 years old, as we are,” Karl Strauss Brewing Company founder Chris Cramer told Brewbound. “But what you can do is you can keep reinventing yourself. You can continuously learn, improve and grow, and make yourself relevant to your core customers. As long as older companies like ours keep focused on what makes us differentiated, and special, and relevant, then it doesn’t matter how many new entrants come in — we are all going to do well.”
In the video above, hear what Cramer and other attendees of the BA’s annual conference had to say about the challenges they are facing in the marketplace.