How Indie Is Your Beer Store?
From its outset, craft beer has worked to set itself apart from larger brewing conglomerates. But as big beer has responded with new products and small brewery buyouts, the line between “independent” craft beer and “crafty” beer (a term that’s gained traction for denoting brands that play the craft game but aren’t independent) has grown blurry. Last year, in a further effort to demarcate “real” craft from “fake” craft, the craft beer trade group the Brewers Association (BA) launched its Certified Independent Craft logo, encouraging brewers to put the image on their products and websites, even display it around the brewery. But this week, the BA is offering up a new angle, suggesting that retailers use this craft beer seal as well.
Though the logo, which at this point has been adopted by over 3,200 breweries, can clearly have marketing benefits for brewers, the idea of extending it to retailers could theoretically have an even bigger impact on craft beer’s bottom line. The BA apparently realizes this, selling the logo to stores not just as a point of indie pride but as a way to increase revenue as well. Think of it this way: For consumers, the kind of person who cares about only buying independent beer probably doesn’t need a logo to tell them what beers are craft. But for retailers, who tend to be more agnostic with their beer choices, putting the idea of independent craft beer front and center could potentially influence what they stock moving forward—especially if it increases sales.
As a result, we shouldn’t be surprised that on the Brewers Association’s webpage presenting the logo to retailers, bottom lines are the bottom line. “Independent craft beer is purchased by more people, more frequently and more is spent per purchase vs. Big Beer acquired brands,” the BA states, quoting stats from a recent Nielsen study. “The seal identifies independent craft and steers consumer behavior.”
The BA’s Craft Beer Program Director Julia Herz hammered this point home. “Independence not only matters, it pays and rewards both retailers and beer lovers,” she said in a statement. “Beer drinkers express that transparency and underlying ownership can drive their purchase intent. Data shows that independent craft outperforms Big Beer acquired brands on a number of metrics. There are many reasons for retailers to seal the deal to support and differentiate independent craft brewers at the point of purchase.”
Importantly, as Herz confirmed to the site Brewbound, the BA will only be offering art files for retailers to use in creating their own displays and not footing the bill for these kinds of promotional items. However, that sort of freedom can be a double-edged sword. For instance, on the official BA retailer site, the logo can be seen plastered on a cooler door. Though that’s a high-impact use, it’s also easy to imagine how, even with the best intentions, a few months down the road that fridge could suddenly be restocked with a bunch of non-craft products. It’s just one example of how broadening the logo’s use could potentially undermine its effectiveness.
But apparently, that’s a risk the BA is willing to take. "Accuracy when it comes to usage of the seal is important," Herz told us via email. "That said, wherever retailers display the seal POS, it is a great step in showcasing the big picture that independent ownership does matter."