First and fore-most, this isn’t a homebrewing article per-say, so bear with me.
As you may have heard, the Craft Brewer’s Association came out with a sticker / badge for independently owned and operated craft breweries could put on their packaging as a way to show they weren’t owned by large brewing corporations such as Budweiser (ABInbev), Miller, Coors, etc. I’d like to throw my 2 cents in on the subject into the ring.
Why Have A Certified Independent Craft Beer Sticker?
Well, over the past few years, ABInbev in particular has bought up several popular craft beer breweries to better leverage the market. They do this in two ways. First, they get profits from craft beer sales and more shelf space control, which has slowly been edging into macro breweries’ profits. That’s easy. The other reason is to actually control the craft beer market. Now you may be thinking this can’t be done with just a few brands of beer, but take Goose Island IPA for example. It’s probably the cheapest IPA at your local craft beer store, and it’s owned by Anheuser Busch. Go ahead, double check next time and let me know if there was a cheaper IPA in the beer case. Since macro breweries buy such insane quantities of brewing ingredients, they get a much better price than breweries with less buying capacity. This means Goose, and other InBev owned breweries can make and sell their beer for less. This makes it more accessible to those looking to spend less on craft beer, and forces smaller breweries to cut prices to keep up, or lose potential sales because of price difference. This overall devaluing of craft beer by InBev also raises the value of Budweiser and similar brands. If they are closer in price, they must be closer in quality correct?
Now, the goal of the certified independent craft beer sticker is to let less informed consumers that the beer isn’t owned by another company and is indeed independently operated. Essentially, if you don’t see this sticker it MIGHT be owned by InBev or one of the other big 3. And that “might” leads me to my thoughts on the situation.
Will the Independent Craft Beer Sticker Work?
Not even a little bit. Let me explain.
Picture all of the craft breweries in the US fighting a war over price and shelf space with the big macro breweries. Now imagine, the craft breweries splitting into two separate groups, but still trying to fight against the big 3. Now, with the sticker, you know the beer you’re buying is certified, tried and true, real craft beer. However, if you don’t see the sticker, it’s a false negative. The absence of the sticker doesn’t mean the beer isn’t independently owned. It simply means they didn’t go get the sticker or update their packaging yet. This splitting effect will only INCREASE as the badge gains traction.
The more educated the buyer becomes about the independent sticker, the more the divide will grow. A consumer dedicated to not purchasing beers owned by larger breweries or corporations will not purchase craft beers without the sticker.
According to this article on CraftBeer.com there are currently (at the time of this article) 1,378 breweries who have adopted the seal. That’s a lot of breweries for sure. But it’s only 25% of the breweries in the United States. The other 75% are certainly not owned by larger corporations. More will join, but there’s no chance that every independently owned craft brewery adopts the seal.
So those are my thoughts on the certified independent craft beer badge. That being said, I certainly don’t support ABInBev purchasing smaller breweries for the reason they are. It’s bad for craft beer. Thankfully, I can make my own beer when the beer-pocalypse happens.
Lastly, I don’t fault breweries for selling their business. That’s their decision, just like it’s your decision to continue to buy said beer or not. And you can put it on record, if someone wants to buy Hive Mind Mead for a few million dollars, call me.
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