What makes craft beer so popular with millennials?

“What got us here will not get us to the future.” I was struck by these comments made by the Carlsberg CEO, Cees ‘t Hart. 

In an address to The Brewers of Europe Forum in June, he also went on to pinpoint three key trends for engaging with a new generation of beer consumers: purpose, sustainability and health.

Interestingly, he also talked about the importance of brewers talking positively about beer, and very interestingly, about ‘each other’s beer’, in order to continue growing the sector.

Clearly, the fast-shifting brewing landscape is triggering ever deeper and more creative thinking. And nowhere are these trends more evident than in the craft brewing revolution we’re seeing unfold before our eyes.

At DSM we recently conducted a survey among craft beer drinkers that supports Carlsberg’s conclusion – namely that craft drinkers care deeply about their beer, where it comes from, and what it means for their health and the planet. Our survey also happens to reveal that the largest increase in craft beer consumption is taking place among those consumers aged 18-30, where we can surmise these values are deeply held.

So what do younger people think about craft beer? How much are they drinking, where are they drinking it and why are they drinking? And what can brewers big and small learn from this? These are all questions we asked in our survey…and we got some surprising and insightful answers.

More young adults are drinking craft beer

Compared to two years ago, virtually half of the under-30 year olds we surveyed had increased their consumption of craft beer. Not surprisingly, beer quality was their number one priority. But that’s not all.

These younger drinkers are adventurous

Nearly half of our survey respondents drink craft beer because they like to try something new. With craft beer, consumers can experiment with a huge diversity of beer styles and taste profiles. And the younger the consumers are, the more likely they are to drink craft beer outside the home, at a pub or restaurant.

Purpose really is key

More than 45% of 18-to-30-year olds we surveyed agreed strongly that the beer they drink says a lot about them. The story, motivations, and purpose of the company behind the beer is gaining in importance. Craft brewers excel at telling this story. In that sense branding appears to be still very important: Beer labels trigger 60% of this group to make a purchase.

Sustainability resonates

This applies not only to young craft drinkers but to older craft drinkers too. Half of our respondents overall said that a product advertised as being sustainable made the product more attractive. Craft beer is viewed as a more sustainable product, according to our survey participants. To back up the sustainability story, craft beer fans are increasingly looking for some background information on the beer, like its ingredients or history.  

So, what does this mean for the industry?

In my view, craft start-ups and established breweries all have a role to play to meet this growing consumer demand for high-quality, innovative beverages that align with their responsibility to contribute a better, more sustainable world. This will be essential for capturing a new generation of consumers and that of generations to come.

You can read more about this and the results of our survey by downloading our new insights report.  

One thing is for sure: we appear to have an emerging, new generation of craft fans – and that represents a big opportunity for brewers around the globe. 

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Published on

01 March 2020