Starting out as an assistant brewing for a new brewpub in Auckland in 1997, the challenge was to get people to drink a beer from other than one of the two big breweries. In 2007, when launching Epic, the challenge was to get a newly bottled craft beer stock on the shelves of supermarkets and liquor stores.
In just 10 years, it has gone from desperately trying to convince a retailer that they should stock a craft beer, to all the shelf space being competed for and beers/brands being removed due to lack of sales, and being replaced with the next beer from the waiting list.
Craft beer is [now] considered the darling of the market. Total beer sales aren’t really changing year on year, but craft beer has been growing at double digit figures within the total beer market.
With the increased awareness and popularity of craft beer, there has been an explosion of new breweries opening around the country. It seems in 2017, that anyone that has ever brewed, has a pocketful of cash, or a friend that is in design is jumping on the craft beer bandwagon.
There are more beers and breweries making beer than there are spaces in the market to sell it or beer drinkers to drink it. All these new breweries coming to market are arriving with a new Pale Ale, and a new IPA. But how many different IPA’s can the New Zealand beer drinking public drink?
Where does all this beer get sold?
New Zealand beer drinkers are spoilt for choice. They can now become fussy and work out what the best beers in each style are, and then narrow what they actually buy, leaving those other beers that don’t offer quality, value or consistency. The future will be a rationalisation of the number of beers on the shelf.
Retailers will stop stocking those beers that just don’t sell.
The dark, unseen side of this is there will be many current small breweries that will go out of business, because they couldn’t compete due to quality issues, branding problems, and overall not being able to offer value to the beer drinker.
We probably have reached peak beer, but within peak beer, there are opportunities for those brewers making really outstanding, world class beers of high quality. These brewers will still be around in another 10 years.
I believe craft beer will continue to grow. The craft beer market will become more and more competitive, and the standard will increase. The quality will improve and become more consistent, and the New Zealand beer drinker will get better and better beer to drink.