Beer production explodes with changing demographics
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For decades, the American university experience has been synonymous with massive beer consumption. But consumer data has shown a steady decline in the amount of beer young people (millennials followed by Gen Z) drink. Why is this happening and how is the industry changing course to meet this challenge?
Lower sales for iconic beers
A 2017 survey by the Beer Institute found that American drinkers chose beer just under half the time (49.7%) when deciding on an alcoholic drink, compared with 60.8% in the middle. from the 90s.
Although there are pockets of growth abroad (in Brazil, China and India), many iconic American brands are recording losses: Molson Coors (Coors Light, Miller Light), Heineken and AB InBev (Budweiser and Bud Light) are all experiencing declining sales and market share. Sales of the country’s most popular beer, Bud Light, fell 17% between 2012 and 2017, while beer lost 10% of its market share to wine and hard liquor between 2006 and 2016.
Meanwhile, microbreweries and craft beers continue to do well, with the industry growing 500% over the past decade.
While Millennials have started the beer downward spiral, Gen Z is the first generation to prefer spirits and wine to beer. Market research by AB InBev found that if people don’t drink beer between the ages of 21 and 25, they are unlikely to ever start. It’s no wonder breweries are scrambling to change course.
Why young people turn away from beer and what they drink instead
Mirroring the trend with most food and drink, Millennials and Gen Z are looking for alternatives to beer for health reasons. They understand:
- Gen Z drink less alcohol in general, possibly due to increased anti-alcohol education.
- Lower tolerance for hangovers due to the more active lifestyle of the younger generations.
- A continuous struggle for beer brands to attract female customers.
- Drinkers pay more attention to carbohydrates and calories.
- Legalization of cannabis in some states offering an alternative to alcohol.
Young drinkers are turning to:
Adapt to a changing market
The US brewing industry consists of 7,000 breweries and importers and employs 70,000 workers. Breweries are responding to the falling market by creating new drinks that cater to younger drinkers, like the seltzers mentioned above.
A rebranding exercise is also underway: AB InBev has created a ‘Beyond Beer’ division – the company expects sales of soft drinks to double by 2025 – and Molson Coors Brewing Company is now the Molson Coors. Drink Society.
The good news is that existing breweries built to make beer can easily switch to the production of new drinks with little capital investment. Rockwell points out that most breweries already have the license, equipment, and distribution channels to adapt.
Additional equipment such as a sugar dosing system may be required, but brewers will experience benefits including a small learning curve for workers, faster processing time for brewing hard seltzer (fermenting in days, not weeks) and fewer cheaper ingredients in each drink.
Image Credit: Master1305 / Shutterstock