The Growing Trend of Craft Brewers in Europe
DW Reusables responds to growing trends of Craft Brewers
Although craft brewing is a relatively young phenomenon in Europe, numbers of independent craft brewers have skyrocketed in the last decade, reaching an estimated total of 7.000 brewers in 2021. The number of independent brewers and beer companies has grown with 11% since the start of the COVID-pandemic, but there are signs of a slowdown and even decrease in some countries.
The success of craft brewing in Europe started around 2014, when beer consumption was at its lowest point. Although the 5 beer majors still possess about 56% of the market, mostly based on classic pilsner sales, consumers were looking for something new.
As the trend for better food grew, authentic and regional products became more popular. Inspired by their colleagues in the USA, craft brewers jumped on this trend by adding local ingredients to their brews in their quest for a unique and original taste. Consumer interest turned towards specialty beers and hence resulted in the discovery of new craft beers.
Today, craft beers have a local market share between 3% and 8%, with over 10,000 local brands.
Evolution and Needs
Despite the growth and success of craft brewers, the recent COVID-pandemic and the current energy crisis hit them hard. This has forced independent brewers to be creative.
First of all, the beer majors have discovered the potential of local craft beers. Several independent brewers were bought and are now benefiting from the large distribution networks of their acquisitor.
Secondly, as more pubs all over Europe are closing down, craft brewers turned to a combination of online sales, taprooms and local stores to distribute their beers. Local (beer) festivals also play an important role in craft beer promotion and sales: many independent brewers are hoping to participate again.
Finally, a combination of optimizing the logistic process and promoting the unique character of their beers, should contribute to making the craft beer business economically viable. DW Reusables has anticipated by launching a standard beer crate range, which craft brewers can buy online in limited quantities.
Although these efforts have resulted in a steady growth, craft brewers tend to be more successful in countries with a strong beer culture. Spain and Italy, for example, have seen a decrease in the number of craft brewers since 2017.
A Belgian craft brewer made it clear what the main challenge is: “We want to be unique but economically viable.”
With increasing prices for single-use packaging such as corrugated boxes, wooden pallets, alu cans and glass, craft brewers are evaluating returnable packaging solutions to reduce costs. Our DW Reusables Returnable crates in combination with returnable bottles have proven to contribute to this objective.
As deposit return systems and single-use packaging taxes are implemented in more and more countries, new supply-chain solutions are emerging. In France (and in Belgium) a growing network of bottle washers is offering an interesting service. The combination of returnable bottles and loop ready crate solutions makes sense, as many craft brewers embrace sustainable solutions to reduce their (energy) costs. But the volumes need to grow and bottle manufacturers must also follow.
In combination with a growing distribution, brand visibility is another key element. Therefore, many craft brewers collaborate with artists and graphic designers to create unique logos and labels. DW Reusables core business – the creation of an original crate design – might be a step too far for most craft brewers. But applying the brand image on a standard crate solution, could be within reach.
It is a fact that the number of craft brewers in Europe is reaching a saturation point, making it challenging for newcomers to enter the market. But, with the consumer’s demand for unique and local products and the growing professionalism in this niche, craft beer is here to stay.