Craft Beer Continues to Outpace Expectations

Craft beer industry posts double-digit growth, Boulder’s Brewers Association reports

Contribution by Alicia Wallace

Lindsay Kleinsasser enjoys a pint at Oskar Blues’ Tasty Weasel Tap Room in Longmont this past March. (Jonathan Castner / Camera file photo)

The craft brewing industry is sustaining its torrid growth pace by notching double-digit gains in sales and volume for the first six months of 2013, according to a report released Monday by the Boulder-based Brewers Association.

Dollar sales and volume for craft brewers — defined as “small, independent and traditional” — were up 15 percent and 13 percent, respectively, through June, according to the nonprofit trade association. During the same period last year, sales and volume were up 14 percent and 12 percent, respectively.

If the pace continues, it would be the fourth consecutive year of double-digit sales and volume growth for the industry, which has seen volume sales increase every year since 1969 and dollar sales grow since 1997, officials for the Brewers Association said.

“To sustain double-digit growth year after year is not to be taken for granted,” said Julia Herz, craft beer program director for the Brewers Association. “But the craft beer revolution is on.”

The sales growth comes amid a continued swelling of the craft brewing ranks.

Through the first half of 2013, there were 2,483 craft breweries in operation in the United States, a more than 20 percent increase from the first half of last year. Additionally, there were 1,605 breweries in planning at the end of June.

The brewery boom has been felt locally, with new operations popping up throughout Boulder County.

Four weeks in operation, Louisville’s Twelve Degree Brewing has been four-and-a-half years in the making.

“Craft beer fans like to sample and experiment, so I think the idea of lots of small breweries — each with its own personality and style — is a very good thing,” Jon Howland, Twelve Degree’s founder, said in an e-mail. “I’m a big fan of Belgium’s beer culture and that’s the situation over there. Almost every little town has its own brewery and, in many cases, more than one.

“It’s really exciting to see this happen in the U.S.”

Craft breweries account for 98 percent of U.S. breweries, officials for the association said.

“More breweries are currently operating in the U.S. than at any time since the 1870s,” Paul Gatza, director of the Brewers Association, said in a statement. “With each new brewery opening, American craft brewers are reinforcing the (United States’) position as the world’s most diverse brewing nation.”

Overall beer sales fell 2 percent through the first six months of the year, according to the Brewers Association report.

Leading the craft segment’s charges are the continued growth among established brewers within the industry, Herz said.

“The majority of new brewers are not at the volume yet,” she said.

Longmont’s Oskar Blues Brewery, the largest brewer in Boulder County, on Monday reported a 38 percent growth in volume for the first half of 2013, outpacing the craft industry by 25 percentage points.

Fueling the growth was the opening of a Tasty Weasel Taproom and brewery in Brevard, N.C., said Chad Melis, an Oskar Blues spokesman. Oskar Blues opened the additional brewery to increase capacity and to more easily supply the East Coast.

The boom in new craft brewers can help all within the industry, Melis said.

“I think there’s increased competition, but for us I think we’re still a pretty small industry,” Melis said. “As more and more people are opening up breweries, we’re able to tell our story through other people … I think it’s continuing to draw attention to quality beer.”

Big Franchise Taps Into Marketing Opportunity with Craft Beer

Better Burger, Better Brew

Smashburger’s beer pairings continue to differentiate the brand.

Smashburger cofounder explains craft beer and burger pairing at Chicago event.
Smashburger cofounder Tom Ryan explains a craft beer and burger pairing at a recent Chicago event. Daniel P. Smith.
Inside Smashburger’s newest Chicago-area restaurant, a hip-looking joint in the city’s trendy Lincoln Park neighborhood, company founder and chief concept officer Tom Ryan holds up the brand’s Windy City Burger as if it’s Lord Stanley’s Cup.

Packed with layers of melted Cheddar cheese, haystack onions, lettuce, tomato, and spicy mustard on a pretzel bun, the Windy City Burger is the fast-casual chain’s exclusive offering for the Chicago market and continues Smashburger’s six-year run of creating local burgers across its 209-store national footprint.

“This burger,” Ryan says, “represents the heartiness and boldness that is Chicago.”

In quick time, Ryan turns the floor over to his company’s newest partners from Chicago-based Goose Island, among the nation’s most celebrated breweries. Goose Island’s brewmaster, Brett Porter, and head of education, Suzanne Wolcott, detail how the toasty, caramel malt flavors in Goose Island’s Honker’s Ale complement the Windy City Burger.

The June 20 beer-and-burger pairing launched Smashburger’s 10th relationship with a craft brewer and helped spotlight craft brews’ continued emergence in the limited-service world.

Once reserved for bars and full-service restaurants, craft beers have pushed into fast-casual eateries around the country, available at spots such as Chipotle, Noodles & Company, and Shake Shack. For most craft brewers, growing entry into the quick-service world is a welcome trend that provides expanded market reach and diversification.

“Craft beer is a 30-year-old overnight success story, and there’s no turning back. Localization of the beer market is in every nook of the U.S.,” says Julia Herz, craft beer program director for the Brewers Association.

“By tapping into craft brewing, one of the most energetic and innovative industries out there, we’re able to offer our guests something that is special, high quality, and distinctive.”

According to the Brewers Association, the craft category, which the Association defines as “small and independent” (wording that excludes the Anheuser-Busch InBev–owned Goose Island enterprise), captured 15 percent volume growth and 17 percent dollar growth in 2012. Craft brewing’s total sales share in 2012 was 6.5 percent by volume and 10.2 percent by dollars.

“This tells us there’s a growing segment of customers looking for craft beer and they’ll go where they can to get it and spend more at the places that offer it,” Herz says.

That surging momentum has motivated and inspired quick-service folks like Ryan to bring craft beer into the fold.

Over the last two years, Denver-based Smashburger has created local burger and craft-brew pairings in markets throughout the U.S., including partnerships with Summit Brewing in Minnesota’s Twin Cities, Christian Moerlein in Cincinnati, Sixpoint in New York City, New Belgium in Denver, and Deep Ellum in Dallas. Ryan teases future pairings in Las Vegas, San Francisco, and Sacramento, California.

“The idea is that once we have enough stores in a given market, we’ll pursue these partnerships and write the next chapter of our localization,” Ryan says. “We want to cater to local tastes as part of our brand mantra, and local craft beer is something people are gravitating toward.”

The partnerships, Ryan says, are also an effort to differentiate Smashburger in the ultra-competitive better-burger space. Same goes for the pairing suggestions from beverage and culinary experts, which are listed on the menuboard.

“I believe differentiation is the key to success in a highly competitive marketplace,” he says. “By tapping into craft brewing, one of the most energetic and innovative industries out there, we’re able to offer our guests something that is special, high quality, and distinctive.”

Though beer represents less than 4 percent of Smashburger’s total sales, Ryan expects the continued allure of craft beer to elevate that number. In fact, beer sales have jumped 20–50 percent in markets where Smashburger has introduced its craft-beer pairings.

Smashburger, which now has 11 Chicago-area stores, approached Goose Island about a potential partnership in mid-2012. Wolcott says Goose Island leadership appreciated Smashburger’s work to localize its menu and store environments, as well as the chain’s focus on quality.

“We’re a Chicago craft brewer that doesn’t take shortcuts, so we embraced what Smashburger was trying to do because it very much matches our work,” Wolcott says.

Over the course of nearly one year, Ryan, Porter, and Wolcott held numerous tastings to define which of Goose Island’s nearly 20 beers best complemented Smashburger’s signature entrées.

“The only challenge is to do this from an authentic perspective and commit the time to creating the pairings and rolling this out,” Ryan says. “Once in the restaurant, bottled beer isn’t hard to do.”

Ryan says the simultaneous innovation that has occurred in the burger and beer worlds affords his brand the opportunity to evolve America’s favorite food—the burger—and its favorite adult beverage for the next generation.

“With relationships like these, we can show people that burgers and beer are different than they used to be,” Ryan says.

Mobile apps and push messaging drive engagement with attendees

We found this article and thought it would be great to share with you, even though it does not have to do with craft brewery, it shows how important and how fast the mobile marketing is happening.  People want to be apart of things, whether that is tennis, TV shows, of craft beers. The technology world is constantly growing and the companies that will succeed are the companies that can communicate with their audience. As a company owner it is very important to be able to communicate with my customers and get them involved. Take a look at this article to see what the Wimbledon is doing this year! We would love to hear your thoughts on mobile marketing!

This year’s annual Wimbledon tennis championships will have a dedicated mobile application that will enable attendees to track their favorite players and stay abreast of all the happenings via streaming video and radio.

Users will be able to track up to ten tennis players and receive push notifications on their progress throughout the tournament. Additionally, the app features an interactive map enabling users to find restrooms, restaurants and other amenities.

“They are trying to create a way to deeply engage tennis enthusiasts – those who are attending the events at Wimbledon as well as those who are not,” said Coleen Carey, vice president of product marketing at Urban Airship, Portland.

“They’ve created a really great experience that is compelling from a content perspective with a lot of video and radio, and this is the one-stop shop via the mobile device for everything you want to know about the Wimbledon games as well as deeply personalizing that by allowing an individual to go in and track their favorite players,” she said.

“It is really taking all of the benefits of mobile and the fact that not only is this a major worldwide event but a local event for those who attend and creating all points of information via that app.”

Urban Airship is providing the push notifications for the Championships Wimbledon 2013 app, which was built in partnership with the All England Lawn Tennis and Croquet Club and IBM.

Real-time updates
The Wimbledon Championships take place June 24 – July 5.

Custom mobile apps designed specifically for live events are becoming more common as mobile adoption grows and organizers discover that mobile can drive deep engagement with attendees, who are away from home and their desktop computers but still want to be connected to information about an event.

For big events such as Wimbledon, push messaging can be used to remind users when a specific performance or match begins or inform users when there has been a change in the schedule.

Push messaging has also been used at several events in the past year to inform attendees in real-time when a dangerous thunderstorm was forecasted, for example.

Inherently mobile
Events such as Bonnaroo, Lollapalooza, South by Southwest and last year’s London Olympics have all offered custom mobile apps that included push messaging with good results.

For example, the Lollapalooza app saw an opt-in rate for push messaging of around 90 percent. Additionally, users opened the app on average 15 times per day.

To read more on this article

 

3 Ways to Boost Social Media Engagement

#1: Crowdsource

It’s a term credited to Jeff Howe, who wrote about the phenomenon for Wired magazine back in 2006. He defined the concept as a “new pool of cheap labor: everyday people using their spare cycles to create content, solve problems, even do corporate R & D.”

 

Today, crowdsourcing has become one of the most influential tools in the social media landscape to attract and capture the attention of unique or specific-reach consumers, those that have similar interests and or behaviors. It begins as a community based question, designed to answer or advise on an issue, challenge or just to garner feedback. Crowdsource has enormous potential in today’s craft brew market. Breweries are consistently playing with new seasonal flavors, trying to understand flavor behaviors, by region or demographic – and one of the best ways to appeal to your fan base is to enlist their advice and thoughts.  You can do voting polls, inquire about favorite beers at specific seasons, even dig a little into what other brands and crafts your customer is enjoying.  Knowing where your fans cheat a little gives you valuable insight.  Crowdsourcing can add value to your brewery and it can be a great forum of ideas and shared interests for all your fans.

Crowdsourcing can be a great engagement tactic. Image source: iStockPhoto.

Crowdsourcing has been adopted by many multinational companies and organizations, such as the mining company Goldcorp and NASA. And with the popularity of social media, crowdsourcing quickly spread to Facebook. Social networks have made it easy for businesses to reach out to their community of friends and fans, and recruit new ones. It’s a way for companies to get relevant information from users and target audiences. One reason crowdsourcing is effective is that it gives a business’s audience a voice and an opportunity for recognition. Of course you don’t have to be a huge organization to use the concept. A few years ago, vitaminwater invited its Facebook fans to choose a new flavor via an app called “FlavorCreator.” It was wildly successful and the company ultimately called the winning flavor vitaminwater connect. Vitaminwater’s FlavorCreator app allowed fans to contribute to the first vitaminwater made by the fans for the fans.

vitamin water app

Another example is the t-shirt company Threadless, which depends entirely on crowdsourcing. They asked graphic designers to submit designs for the community to vote on. Threadless uses a basic poll to crowdsource. Threadless invites its users to vote on their favorite designs. The shirts with the most votes go into production and are sold on the website. The designs with the most votes win, and limited runs of the t-shirts are sold online.

The bottom line is that your customers have great ideas and chances are good that they’d love the opportunity to share them with you. So why not take advantage of the wisdom of your crowd? Invite them into the conversation and you should increase engagement.

#2: Introduce/Highlight Your Employees on Facebook

 

Brand likeability is more than product favorability. Publicly acknowledging the people behind your brand—your employees—on Facebook and beyond is a great way to bring them, and your business, recognition. People like to do business with companies that they feel they “know,” and there’s no better way for them to get to know you than by introducing them to your employees. Plus, when your employees get a nod, your brand may have greater exposure to their friends and friends of friends. Adding this human element can also boost EdgeRank if your posts get more posts and comments than usual. Last week, one of my employees put a funny photo on Facebook of me eating a donut that was nearly as big as my face. It got 66 likes and 18 comments… pretty good for a random status update.

jim eating donut

Our fans like to see that we have real employees and that they do human things, like eat huge donuts.

There are other easy ways to give your employees shout outs* on Facebook. Since Facebook is one of the most personal social networks, and the place where your employees’ friends and family are most likely to be, it’s a great public place to highlight employees’ accomplishments. This inspires a sort of positive cycle because they, of course, want to share their kudos with their friends, and in turn it shines a light on your business. You can highlight an employee every week or every month, making it a regular feature of your Page.

In the image below, ToolSelect shows it’s not a one-man operation but a tight-knit group of professionals. Now you can know exactly who is bringing the website to you.

toolselect-employee

ToolSelect highlights all of their employees on a Meet Your ToolSelect Team app.

Use a Q&A as a low-maintenance way to get the information you can use to share on Facebook and bring focus to individual employees. Create a simple questionnaire—What’s your proudest accomplishment? What’s your favorite non-work pastime? The best book you’ve read lately?—and ask every employee to fill it out. Get a spontaneous photo of the featured employee or a photo of him/her receiving an award, and give a shout-out to different employees on a regular basis. In the image below, Moment Skis posted a photo of their Production Prep Pro in their factory.

moment skis

This simple concept brought them a large amount of engagement. One word of caution: Not everyone likes to have a light shined on them, so just be sure that your employee is comfortable with public kudos. Highlighting your employees’ accomplishments is a great way to boost likeability and engagement in your Facebook community.

#3: Reveal New Products and Features

 

Fans of your brand always want to know what they can expect next from you. Whether you own a bakery or a car parts manufacturing company, people who use your products want to know what you’re working on and Facebook is a great way to inform them. You can design a Facebook app that reveals a new product, service or special offer every day for a month. This gives your business the chance to show off the products or services that are not as well-known to your fans and customers.

Earlier this year, Nescafé in Greece did a campaign that involved the unveiling of some new packaging. They filled an aquarium with coffee beans, buried the new package in it and then told fans with each like, they’d reveal a little bit of the package. Within 22 hours, the company had received more than 3000 new likes and fans got to see the whole package. Many people would say “Who cares?”, but obviously people who were curious played along. The aquarium became the brand’s cover photo, at least for a day.

Check out the time-lapse video.

nescafe

Medal of Honor

In July, the folks behind the super-popular Medal of Honor franchise invited fans to like poll questions on Facebook in exchange for the early unveiling of a new multi-player gameplay trailer featuring an all-new map. To encourage sharing with a campaign like this, you could say something such as “The more likes we get, the more we’ll show you.” This won’t violate Facebook’s terms of service. Anyone who knows a gamer knows all about the anticipation for a new game. The Medal of Honor app is another example of putting the release of a product in the hands of the fans.

medal of honor app

Iron Man 3

Films have also been promoted this way. Iron Man 3 gave fans a glimpse of what to expect once they had liked a relevant Page.

iron man trailer

Iron Man 3 used the simple act of liking to reveal a trailer, making it easy and fun for fans to get involved. You don’t have to be a huge brand to use some of these innovative ideas. What they’re doing can inspire your own “reveals” on a much smaller scale ideas.

Contributing story: Social Media Examiner