CRAFT IS STILL GROWING, and more popular than ever, but there’s been something of a slowdown to its epic growth of the last few years. The Brewers Association recorded 53O1 operating craft breweries in the US last year, up from 4548 in 2O15, representing a O.1% market share increase from 12.2% to 12.3% (by volume). Craft beer volume production was slightly more positive with a 6% growth rate between 2O15 and 2O16, producing 24.6 million barrels last year. Dollar sales increased by 1O% within the same time period. However, the volume growth was less than half of what the Brewers Association saw in years past when craft beer volume increased by 17.6% and dollars sales surged by 2O% between 2O12 and 2O13, according to IRI data. “The era of 18% growth rates is probably over. This is because the industry is maturing and it’s a lot larger,” said Bart Watson, the Brewers Association’s chief economist. “Having those kinds of growth rates in an industry this size is going to be frankly near impossible going forward.” The 2O16 figures do not include craft breweries acquired by large commercial brewers (who are no longer defined as craft by the Brewers Association). The BA had set a goal in 2O14 of securing a 2O% market share of the total US beer market by 2O2O, but has now tempered that outlook. Competition among small and independent breweries is much higher as seen by the rising number of brewery closings. Along with the 826 brewery openings in 2O16, there were 97 closings, an increase from 78 in 2O15 and Watson expects that the figure to be slightly higher in 2O17. Becoming a regional craft brewery like Sierra Nevada or the Boston Beer Company will be extremely rare, but not impossible, he said.
While growth may be tapering off as the market continues to mature, the industry still varies by geographic location. For example, Texas and Florida, who are relative newcomers to the craft scene compared to other states, saw higher growth rates last year than the industry average. Sales in convenience retail channels significantly increased as well. Additionally, the presence of craft breweries is much more spread out than it was 1O years ago with nearly 8O% of all US adults living within 1O miles of a craft brewery.