Nielsen Poll Reveals 2019 Craft Beer Consumer Insights

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During a webinar last week sponsored by the Brewers Association, market research firm Nielsen, presented findings from its newest “Craft Beer Insights Poll” (CIP).

What Does A Craft Beer Drinker Look Like?

According to Nielsen, the average craft beer drinker is primarily male. He’s between 21 and 44 years old and he earns between $75,000 to $99,000 annually.

That demographic is beginning to shift, however, as 79% of women consider themselves monthly drinkers.

The results, shared by two members of Nielsen’s beverage alcohol team — Caitlyn Battaglia and Danelle Kosmal — was conducted by the Harris Poll from May 18th to 26th and was commissioned by the Brewers Association.

The online survey lasted 20 minutes and asked 1,100 craft beer drinkers about their consumption habits. Nielsen then classified those respondents as either a “weekly craft drinker” (45 percent of respondents) or a “regular craft beer drinker” (55 percent), who drinks beer several times annually.

Here are some of the highlights from their report:

The Weekly Craft Beer Drinker Is Still Male, Younger, Higher Income; Less Frequent Craft Drinkers More Diverse

More Adults are Drinking Craft Beer

Overall, 43 percent of consumers drink craft beer, which is up from 35 percent in 2015. Fifty-six percent of men and 31 percent of women surveyed said they drink craft beer. And more than half of 21- to 44-year-olds said they drink craft beer.

According to Nielsen, the reason more people are drinking craft beer is that there’s a shift away from other alcoholic beverages. Other reasons include the desire for more variety, better quality, and diverse flavor options.

Those who responded that they were drinking less craft beer said that the primary reason was that they chose to drink other alcoholic beverages instead. Some also said that they were trying to live a healhier lifestyle and consume less calories.

Opportunities for Capitalizing on Future Purchases Extend Beyond Traditional Channels
Independent Craft Brewer Seal

The Indepenedent Craft Brewer Seal Makes A Difference

Nielsen reported that 42 percent of craft beer drinkers had seen the seal and nearly 25 percent of them said they purchased a beer with the Independent Craft Brewer seal on the package. Of those who had seen the seal, nearly half of them were convinced to make a purchase. Battaglia called referred to that as “a good conversion rate.”

The numbers were higher amongst weekly craft beer drinkers. More than half said they’d see the seal and 31 percent reported they’d purchased a certified craft beer.

“Those numbers go up considerably among younger drinkers,” Battaglia added. “When we look at that 21- to 34-year-old craft drinker, in particular, 60 percent were aware of the seal.”

The survey also asked consumers how likely they were to purchase a beer that featured the seal. 46 percent of those consumers said they were more likely to buy a beer because it had the seal. 58 percent of weekly craft beer drinkers said the seal would encourage a purchase.

On the other hand, 41 percent of regular craft beer drinkers and 38 percent of weekly craft beer drinkers said the seal had no impact on their purchases. Just 2 percent of regular consumers and 4 percent of weekly consumers said they were “less likely” to buy a beer that had the seal featured on its packaging.

Good Awareness of the Seal With Conversion to Purchase Over 55%

Local is Important to Craft Beer Drinkers

Nielsen learned that 66 percent of craft beer drinkers only bought beer that was sold in their region. And 57 percent said they only bought beer that was sold in their town or city. Those numbers were even higher amongst weekly craft beer drinkers. 71 percent said they only bought regional beers and 62 percent said they bought local.

Local craft beer purchases account for 10.3 percent of total craft dollar sales, which is up about 1 percent from 2018. Local craft six packs also sell for a higher average off-premise price at $14.34. Comparatively, the average craft beer six pack sells at $9.26. According to Kosmal, the report shows that consumers are willing to pay a more for local craft beer.

Overall Craft Beer Growth has Slowed

In spite of the positive numbers, the growth of the craft beer market slowed to just 1.2 percent over the 52 weeks. However, small independent craft brewers is outpacing the overall category, up 2.4 percent.

And while total beer category volume sales dropped 1 percent, independent craft volumes grew nearly 1 percent.

At on-premise retail accounts, dollar sales increased 0.5 for the total beer category and independent craft brewers saw 2.8 percent increase.

The trend of dollar sales outpacing volume sales also shows that consumers are continuing to “trade up” for higher end offerings, such as craft beer, imports, FMBs, super premiums, and cider, Kosmal said.

Sales of Spirits are Accelerating

Over the past 50 weeks, off-premise dollar sales of spirits increased 4.7 percent and while wine sales grew 1.9 percent. On-premise sales for both spirits increased 2.1 percent and wine grew 1.3 percent.

“At a total category level, spirits is leading and has in fact been widening its growth lead over the last couple of years,” Kosmal said. “Beer is lagging, with wine in the middle, and its growth rate slowing.”

Hard Seltzer to be a $1 Billion Industry by the End of 2019

The hard seltzer segment is growing triple digits, following a strong July 4 holiday week, Battaglia said.

Is It Time for Craft Brewers to Advertise?

Breweries Need to Advertise

Consumers are showing more loyalty to particular craft beers. Overall, only 21 percent of those surveyed said they “always or often” buy craft beer they’ve never heard of. That’s down from 37 percent in 2015.

“I would say that now is the time for brewers to ramp up marketing efforts to build and track brand awareness and to lean into the business side of owning a brewery,” Kosmal said.

However, those purchasing decisions were split amongst genders. 71 perent of male consumers said they were more likely to purchase a beer they’ve never heard of. But 63 percent of women said they were less likely to buy a beer they hadn’t heard of.

Consumers are Choosing their Favorite Brands

Also related, 75 percent of consumers said they purchase up to three beer brands each month. But the number of “promiscuous consumers” who buy five or more brands a month has dropped over the past five years, Kosmal said.

“Drinkers today are less likely to experiment across brands, at least compared to five years ago,” she said. “To me, this says that your brand recognition and equity that you have built or are building with your core drinkers is becoming increasingly more important.”

Opportunities for Capitalizing on Future Purchases Extend Beyond Traditional Channels

Brewery Visits Help Drive Future Retail Sales

Over half of craft beer drinkers said they purchased a beer after a brewery visit. The top three places for consumers to buy a beer was at the brewery itself, at 66 percent. Retail stores followed at 60 percent and 54 percent said they made their purchase at a bar or restaurant.

The top three occasions for consumers to purchase craft beer was drinking at home with friends and family, at 63 percent. Followed by 56 percent of those eating at a restaurant and then 50 percent were visiting a friend’s home.

The Number of Brewery Visits is Slightly Down

Over the past 12 months, regular craft beer drinkers made an average of 2.4 visits to a brewery that was within two hours of their home. Weekly craft beer drinkers made an average of 3.4 visits.

“Here we see a little bit of the decline or a little bit of stagnation and not a lot of growth,” Battaglia said.

Most people visit breweries for sampling, education, and trying exclusive offerings. The report found that sampling opportunities are “even more important for female craft drinkers,” with 55 percent saying that’s why they visit breweries, Battaglia added.

“The fact that they’re coming into breweries and tasting rooms to sample beer is a great way to continue to engage with and capture those female drinkers and take advantage of the fact that is something they’re specifically looking for,” she said.

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