Be part of the beer renaissance

October 14, 2014

Food stores find new ways to tap America’s passion for inventive brew tastes.

Originally published on Facts, Figures & the Future.

Supermarkets could soon be in the middle of a blossoming marriage between beer, coffee and other foods.

Several separate events suggest this could happen soon: 

The Synek Draft System raised nearly $650,000 on Kickstarter for its patent-pending titanium and nylon bags “that can be filled from brewers’ taps with a gallon of beer, or the equivalent of 11 drinks,” reports the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. The pressurized bags keep beer fresh for at least 30 days, much longer than growlers’ shelf life of a few days,” the developer told the paper. This innovative system dispenses premium fresh beer that brewers create –and leaves brewers with “15 to 20 times” the 10% margin a brewer might otherwise make through retail sales. The bags fit into a box that can be plugged into a dispenser [approximately the size of a toaster oven], the paper describes.

At certain Kroger, Weis Markets, and Lunds & Byerly’s stores, in-store counters already serve varied imports and domestic beers, including local craft brews, in growlers for on- or off-premise consumption.  Local sources tell us the growlers are “making money hand over fist.”  The growlers seem ideal for tasty, quick refreshment with a friend in a beer café or to quench thirsts at a football tailgate. 

If more supermarkets devise ways to sell craft brews (and others) in growlers or Keurig beverage-style dispensers – either for on-site beer cafe or at-home drinking – they’ll vie for popularity as social drinking sites, strip distribution costs vs. cans and glass, and make it much easier for people to access their favorite craft brew flavors, says F3. Supermarkets that check local laws may find limited or no restrictions against their installation of in-store beer cafes. 

Meanwhile, a Starbucks test of a drink it calls Dark Barrel Latte in a “handful” of Ohio and Florida stores, reported by USA Today, hints at possible demand for beer flavors all day long. The Starbucks “stout flavor” is really a “roasted malt flavor” containing no alcohol.  

If suppliers believe demand does exist for beer flavors throughout the day, supermarkets can soon expect an infusion of these in pastas, breads, sauces, prepared meats and numerous categories storewide. 

The engine for beer sales is the surging popularity of craft brews and their variety of tastes. The Brewers Association says the production of local beers is 18% ahead in mid-2014 vs. a year ago. Craft beer sales have risen at least 10% in each of the first six-month periods of the past four years.

Over a longer span, U.S. consumption of domestic and import beers has been virtually flat since 1999, says a Boston Consulting Group analysis of Brewers Association statistics.  By contrast, craft beer production jumped more than 80% in just the past five years, from 117 million cases in 2008 to 215 million cases in 2013. In this period, small brewers nearly doubled their volume share to 7.8% from 4.0%.  

Moreover, BCG notes a surge in U.S. craft breweries to more than 2,500, up from 350 in 1991 and 1,499 in 2001, according to National Beer Wholesalers Association figures.