While the current US and world economies have many crying in their beers, the fact that they are buying beer to cry into may be a good sign for the industry.
According to Nielsen research, 86% of consumers believe the country is currently in a recession, but alcoholic beverages are still seen as an affordable indulgence.
“Historical, as well as more recent consumer trends, indicate that alcoholic beverages are much more recession-resistant than many other product categories,” says Richard Hurst, senior vice president, Beverage Alcohol, The Nielsen Company.
The beer industry in the UK and other countries has been in an apparent decline for a while and the current crumbling of the world economy will certainly not help. But here in the US, the signs are good that the craft beer industry may weather the recession/depression a little better than other industries.
Imported beers have also suffered, showing steady declines in the last six months. Consistent with the “localization” trend, craft beers and U.S. wines from outside California have been gaining share, and there are now more than 200 “micro-distilleries” across the country.
“In tough economic times, consumers are often biased toward national or local products, further enhancing the prospects for domestic brand growth, whose prices have remained relatively stable through the year,” says Hurst.
This doesn’t mean that the coming months or years won’t be tough for US brewers. It’s going to be tough on everyone but a glass of local brew may make it a little less painful, at least for a few minutes.
If you want to read a brilliant anylasis of the economy from the craft beer prespective, I highly recommend Jay Brooks’ (the best beer writer in the industry, IMHO) post Beer in the Time of Recession at the Brookston Beer Bulletin.