The craft beer sector as burgeoned over the past few years with new products for small craft breweries springing up like weeds. This is only to be celebrated and enjoyed. Inovation and choice are what makes our world a more exciting place to live.
We recently subscribed to a frankly unmissable promotional offer for an on-line craft beer club. The package arrived and we eagerly opened it only to be rather baffled at the contents. Twelve cans from small breweries mainly in the USA with the most bizarre flavours and even more bizarre packaging. Gone are all references to heritage or traditional brewing icons and of course why would they use these symbols of the past when they are not selling heritage. They are selling a brave new world of brewing innovation.
Whilst all this explosion of different designs on our supermarket shelves is entertaining we would be surprised if a fraction of these beers were going to be available in a couple of years time. There seems to be very little genuine brand building going on. Food packaging generally tries to communicate the fact the product inside will be high quality, taste great and allow you to easily recognise it when you come shopping again. A lot of these new beers seem to be challenging the customer to take a leap of faith by supplying the customer with as little information as possible and replacing it with a big dollop of attitude.
A lot of these beers feel like they are deliberately designed to be here today and gone tomorrow. Limited editions that are drunk in small quantities, even down to just buying one can. The sector seems to define it’s self as the place for sampling one beer then moving on to the next which is fun for consumers but few will be coming back for more as it is all about seeking out the new.
Small breweries without huge advertising and promotional budgets have to work much harder in creating a solid brand that will resonate and stick in the mind. Brew Dog is one exception and has managed to create a really stong new brand in the market. It clearly defines it’s attitude and position in the market with a design language that clearly says that it is different from the traditional offerings. It is easy to find on shelf and produces limited runs of fresh new flavours to satisfy those who seek to experiment.
Perhaps breaking every convention feels exciting for the brewery but ultimately confusing for the consumer. Perhaps these very quirky beers will thrive by selling predominately on-line where customers can research the brewery back story at their leisure.