Power Hour: Nielsen Shares Latest Craft Beer Consumer Insights

Want to know what a craft beer drinker looks like in America?

According to Nielsen, a weekly craft drinker is predominantly male, ages 21-34, and makes between $75,000 and $99,000 annually.

Although that’s the profile of a frequent craft drinker, opportunities exist to reach a more diverse group of consumers, according to the research firm, which today shared the results of its fourth annual Craft Beer Insights Panel (CIP) survey, conducted by Harris Poll and commissioned by the Brewers Association (BA).

Nielsen’s beverage alcohol team — Danny Brager, Caitlyn Battaglia and Danelle Kosmal — joined today’s Power Hour webinar, hosted by the BA, to unveil their latest findings.

According to Brager, senior vice president of Nielsen’s Beverage Alcohol Practice Area, the 20-minute online survey asked about 1,000 legal drinking age consumers about their consumption habits. The survey ended up classifying craft consumers into two categories: “weekly” craft consumers (45 percent of respondents) and all craft consumers, those who consume several times a year (55 percent of respondents).

Here are a few takeaways from today’s presentation:

More adults are drinking craft. The survey found that 47 percent of weekly craft drinkers said they are drinking more craft beer, while 18 percent said they were drinking less. And 32 percent of all craft drinkers said their consumption had increased.

The craft beer segment has an opportunity to reach more female consumers. Although the gender gap still exists, Brager said it’s “shrinking” and a “big opportunity to close the gap” remains.

In 2018, 49 percent of men (up from 46 percent in 2015) and 31 percent of women (up from 25 percent in 2015) said they drink craft beer. Although only 29 percent of women identified themselves as weekly craft drinkers, 70 percent identified as craft beer consumers. Compare that to the 82 percent of male respondents who identified as craft consumers.

One opportunity to reach female consumers is through beers with crisp, fruity or juicy/hazy flavor profiles, said Battaglia, a manager within Nielsen’s Beverage Alcohol Practice Area. She added that female consumers are less interested in typical IPA profiles but their interest is growing in New England-style IPAs (up 39 percent over previous years). Battaglia called the style a “really great opportunity to bridge that IPA gap.”

Brewery and tasting room visits lead to increased purchasing of a brand post-visit. According to the survey, 15 percent of all craft drinkers said they were “purchasing a lot more” of a brewery’s beer after a visit, while 34 percent said they were buying “a little more.”

Those numbers increased for weekly craft drinkers, with 24 percent saying they were purchasing a lot more of a brand’s beer after visiting and 35 percent saying they purchased a little more.

Thirty-one percent of males ages 35- to 44, who drink craft beer weekly, said they were buying more of a brand’s products after visiting a tasting room, while 36 percent said they purchased a little more. And 20 percent of female consumers said they bought a lot more of a brewery’s beer after a visit while 42 percent said they bought a little more.

Nevertheless, 30 percent of all craft consumers surveyed said they are drinking more craft beer due to visiting brewpubs and tasting rooms. Those increased “own-premise” stops are also adding occasions, the survey found. 63 percent of respondents said their visit to a brewery was either different than a traditional on-premise occasion or in addition to one.

Half of craft drinkers said they chose to visit a tasting room rather than a traditional bar because of the ability to sample a variety of beers via flights. Other reasons included learning about different beer styles, getting fresh beer, taking brewery tours and getting exclusive offerings.

While weekly craft beer drinkers also said they visited breweries for those reasons, they also cited a more knowledgeable staff, food and beer pairings and a family friendly environment as reasons for going to breweries.

A growing number of people are seeking so-called “third space” drinking occasions, including breweries and taprooms. 67 percent of 21- to 39-year-olds respondents said they were going to brewery tasting rooms more than the previous year, while 65 percent said they were visiting more breweries. Additionally, an increasing number of all U.S. consumers said they had visited more brewery tasting rooms (61 percent) and breweries (61 percent) than the prior year.

The brand is growing in importance in purchasing decisions, According to Kosmal, vice president of Nielsen’s Beverage Alcohol Practice. 40 percent of weekly craft drinkers said they look for the brand first compared to 24 percent in 2015. However, 60 percent of weekly drinkers said they still look at style, compared to 76 percent in 2015.

59 percent of craft beer drinkers believe locally made is either “very” or “somewhat important,” Nielsen found. When provided a list of reasons for purchasing craft beer that included things flavor, freshness, aroma and locality, 42 percent of weekly craft drinkers said the distance between them and the brewery was a top two reason for buying. 40 percent of respondents said locally made beer was “somewhat important,” while only 19 percent of survey takers said local wasn’t a factor.

Canned beer is on pace to outsell bottled beer within three years, Brager said. Cans now have 57 percent of total beer dollar share and account for two-thirds of the volume.

Less resistance exists among consumers to buying craft beer in a cans now with only 15 percent of craft drinkers saying they wouldn’t purchase beer packaged in aluminum. However, Brager said there’s still opportunity to improve the perception among consumers of canned beer in terms of “taste,” “quality” and “freshness” compared to bottled beer.

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