Last week, the Washington Post reported that light beer is headed toward a 10-year low in sales. This means the staple light pilsners the likes of Coors, Anheuser-Busch, and Miller built their empires upon are simply not connecting with beer drinkers the way they once did.
Overall, as the Washington Post article reports, the beer market is shrinking as a whole. But while the amount of real estate available is becoming tighter, craft beer is surging and staking their claim to a larger piece of that precious market share.
It’s taken a significant amount of time, a ton of effort, and a lot of word-of-mouth advertising, but we can safely say the craft beer cat is out of the bag. In no way have they captured the lion’s share of the market, but awareness is high and people are seeing beer for more than just the end product of a catchy ad campaign.
With the steady decline in sales light beer is experiencing, one has to wonder if they’ll ever be able to recapture the consumers who got away. There’s always going to be a place for light beer, and many people will remain loyal to their brand through thick and thin because humans are creatures of habit. But for those who’ve migrated towards artisanal beers, it’s incredibly difficult to crack open a light pilsner and truly be satisfied. In other words, once you go craft, you never go back.
Here’s a bunch of reasons why light beer will have a tough time rebounding and getting customers back…
- Advertising (as we used to know it) Is Dead – This doesn’t just apply to beer…this is a global trend. Companies could once rely on a highly-saturated TV, print, and/or radio campaign to get the job done in regards to keeping consumers captivated by their products. But it’s a different world now. With the evolution of the Internet and social media, people can pick and choose what they want to see, hear, and consume…and ultimately, where they spend their money. Therefore, those 10 ads that run during the Super Bowl with the frogs and the horseys and the goats aren’t going to resonate like they once did. Ironically, craft breweries have utilized social media to their advantage by communicating WITH their loyalists, not AT them. People are more prone to purchase from companies who interact.
- It’s What’s In the Glass That Matters – For decades, the mass producers of beer sold their wares through sameness, repetition, and spending a boatload of money positioning themselves in full sight of consumers. It was only a matter of time before people had their fill. When a person demands more and then finds a beer that will give it to them, they’ll drink that instead. And as I mentioned before, going back to the light beers is difficult.
- Hometown Support – Here in Pittsburgh, the support for the craft beer scene and those who create unique beers is tremendous and it’s not unlike that all over the country, even the world. Millions of beer drinkers feel inclined to support a local product to further perpetuate its growth and stability, plus stimulate the local economy.
- Growing Up… – As youngsters, light beer is typically all we know. Additionally, when we’re on a mission to prove how many we can drink in one sitting, a Double IPA would just make us look bad. But as we get older and the need to black out from drinking loses its hip factor, it only makes sense to consume a product with quality taste made from natural ingredients. The light beer crowd will continue to cycle in new youngsters, but it’s safe to say the age in which a person realizes there’s more quality beer on the market is lowering at a rapid pace.
- Access to Knowledge – Just as the Internet has changed advertising, it’s changed our ability to quickly access information as well. If we want to find out about a beer, it’s a click away. This naturally increases our desire to consume that beer and, if we enjoy it, find others of similar style and quality. In addition, many bars are taking the time to educate their consumers and turn them on to something other than the “status quo.”
- Establishments Taking a Stand – More and more, I’m discovering locales that want to differentiate themselves from others and feature craft beers. When people are loyal to a pub and their options are of craft variety, they’ll naturally partake and, most likely, enjoy.
- Session Beers – Perhaps the death bell for the yellow, fizzy water beer. One argument people make against craft beers is the inability to have an extended drinking session due to higher alcohol content. Enter session ales, craft beer’s answer to your all-day need to drink. These beers are of the quality and taste you expect in craft beer, but with significantly lower alcohol by volume (ABV). Session beers typically range anywhere between 4% to 5.5% ABV, making it easier to consume more and still spell your name.
What other reasons do you feel will make it tough for light beer to recapture those they’ve lost? Sound off in the comments below!