To help you answer the increasingly difficult question of “is this a craft beer?” the Brewers Association (BA) has introduced a new seal of independence – the Independent Craft Brewer Seal. As more craft breweries, which are by definition small and independent, are assimilated by the likes of Anheuser-Busch, MillerCoors, Heineken, Constellation Brands, and non-beer-related equity firms, it’s harder than ever to identify which breweries are truly independent. The BA hopes that in the coming weeks, months and years, beer lovers will begin to see the seal on beer packaging, at retailers and in brewery communications and marketing materials.
The new seal is available for use, free of charge, to all of America’s 5,300+ independent breweries. The Brewers Association defines craft breweries as those that are small and independent. Although those are subjective terms, it is the best definition we have. You can read the larger, complete definition here.
Also, to a certain extent, the BA’s definition is self-serving; the definition of small is directly related to the amount of beer produced annually by its largest members. The definition of independent is a bit more nebulous.
It should also be noted that although the seal is available without charge to qualifying breweries, the major issue for most breweries will be the cost of incorporating it into their branding.
While small and independent craft brewers represent 99 percent of the 5,300+ breweries in the U.S., they make just 12 percent of the beer sold in the country. The rest of U.S. beer sales comes from Big Beer along with imported brands. As large brewers continue to have unprecedented influence and acquire millions of barrels of formerly independently brewed beer, the seal differentiates in a crowded and increasingly competitive marketplace.
According to the Brewers Association, independence is a hallmark of the craft brewing industry, and it matters to the brewers who make the beer and the beer lovers who drink it. A recent study commissioned by Brewbound and conducted by Nielsen found that “independent” and “independently owned” strongly resonated with the majority (81 percent) of craft beer drinkers. Increasingly, they are looking for differentiation between what’s being produced by small and independent craft brewers versus Big Beer and acquired brands. Beer drinkers, especially Millennials, expect transparency when it comes to their food and beverages. That transparency and underlying ownership can drive their purchase intent.
“Independent craft brewers continue to turn the beer industry on its head by putting community over corporation and beer before the bottom line. They continue to better beer and our country by going beyond just making the beverage. These small businesses give back to their backyard communities and support thousands of cities and towns across the U.S.,” said Bob Pease, president & CEO, Brewers Association. “As Big Beer acquires former craft brands, beer drinkers have become increasingly confused about which brewers remain independent. Beer lovers are interested in transparency when it comes to brewery ownership. This seal is a simple way to provide that clarity—now they can know what’s been brewed small and certified independent.”
“Craft brewers build communities and the spirit of independent ownership matters” said Rob Tod, chair, Brewers Association Board of Directors and founder, Allagash Brewing Company in Portland, Maine. “When beer lovers buy independent craft beer, they are supporting American entrepreneurs and the risk takers who have long strived not just to be innovative and make truly great beer, but to also build culture and community in the process.”
Breweries can find more information about the independent craft brewer seal at BrewersAssociation.org/seal and beer lovers can learn more at CraftBeer.com/seal. Follow the discussion at #IndependentBeer.
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