5 Beer Trends That Will Shape the Next 5 Years.

It’s an interesting time for beer. Total beer consumption has been on the decline for the better part of a decade now, even though craft beers and imports continue to grow. New beyond beer products are gushing into the market by the truckload, and stealing market share that used to sit safely in the hands of stalwart domestic beers. The winds of change are blowing, and brewers are making all kinds of moves to adjust.

Just last week, beer giant MillerCoors announced they were changing their name to Molson Coors Beverage Company, cutting 500 jobs and relocating their U.S. corporate headquarters from Denver, CO to Chicago, IL. The brewer cited the ability to find new talent and develop new products as the impetus for the move.

An interesting note about the name change is the word “Beverage” in Molson Coors Beverage Company, rather than “Brewing Company”. It reflects an increasing focus on the non-beer offerings the company intends on expanding in the coming years.

It’s certainly a lot to chew on, and it got us thinking about the direction of the category as a whole. As beer is fighting declining sales, these companies are turning to new products and strategies to preserve their share of the market.

Here are 5 trends we believe will heavily influence the beer market over the next 5 years.

  1. Sustainable Production

Sustainable production is a growing concern among consumers, and we’ve seen it’s influence across a number of categories, including the recent rise of meatless products. A 2018 study published in PLOS ONE found consumers would be willing to pay substantially more for beer, if they knew it was sustainably produced. The study of 1,000 U.S. beer drinkers found the majority would be willing to pay and additional $1.30 per six-pack, on average. Interestingly, these results held true for craft brew drinkers and domestic drinkers alike.

Many brewers are already on the trend. New Belgium Brewing Company releases an annual sustainability report to showcase their various efforts. In 2018, 99.8% of their waste escaped landfills. In spite of growth, the company set ambitious goals for reducing energy and water consumption by 2020. Allagash Brewing Company, also put a number of sustainability practices in place in recent years, including waste diversion, composting, cork recycling, and using locally-grown grain.

  1. Cutting Packaging Waste

Many brewing companies have also been working to increase the sustainability of their packaging. Last month, Carlsberg unveiled details about two new paper bottle prototypes, produced from sustainably sourced wood fibers, that are fully recyclable. The inside of the bottle contains a “barrier” coating, which allows the bottles to carry beer. One prototype barrier was made from recycled materials, while the other was 100% “bio-based”.

Another interesting recent sustainable unveiling came from AB InBev’s Beck’s, who revealed a new technology to eliminate paper labels from their bottles. The new concept will “tattoo” the labels on the bottles, using only ink. The new bottles are being launched as part of a limited run, but going forward, the technology has other significant benefits for Beck’s. Small batch runs will be available four weeks faster than they were with paper labels, bringing beers from design to shelf significantly faster than before.

  1. Hard Seltzer

Hard Seltzer really upset the applecart, didn’t it? The category has been growing at triple digit rates since 2016, and is expected to grow at a 300% clip in 2019. “In 2016, we sold the same amount of Truly in an entire summer that we now sell in a week,” Boston Beer chief marketing officer Lesya Lysyj told The Daily Beast in a September article.

Why? They’re low calorie alternatives with a light, crisp flavor along the lines of the ever-popular vodka & soda. Market leaders White Claw and Truly are only about 100 calories apiece, are gluten-free and don’t leave the consumer feeling bloated as quickly as a few beers. Molson Coors has already dipped it’s toes into the space with Henry’s Hard Sparkling Water, and plans on releasing a new product called Vizzy next year. It’s hard to say if this trend is here to stay for good, but for now and the near future, it’s the hottest “beyond beer” product around.

  1. Zero-Proof Drinks

With an increased focus on health and wellness in American culture, many consumers, particularly Millennials, are seeking alternatives to alcohol. In fact, Whole Foods just named zero-proof beverages one of their top 10 trends for 2020. The market for zero-to-low alcohol beverages is expected to grow by 32% between 2018 and 2022, 3X the category’s growth over the previous 5 years, according to a report by Bon Appétit.

Companies, including brewers and big alcohol, are beginning to experiment with these alternatives. Trending products include CBD-infused beverages, hopped teas, sparkling waters, ginger beers and a new crop of craft non-alcoholic beers. For restaurants and drinking establishments, some experts liken the rise of these non-alcoholic drinks to the rise of craft beers.

  1. Craft Beer

Domestic beers might be in trouble, but craft beers keep on growing. Between 2008 and 2016, there was a significant boom, as the number of brewery establishments grew 6X over. The reason for the growth? Bart Watson, the chief economist at the Brewers Association, explained to The Atlantic, “We’ve seen three main markers in the rise of craft beer—fuller flavor, greater variety and more intense support for local businesses.”

While many consumers are moving away from beer as the de-facto choice for an alcoholic beverage, there are still many people who are big fans of the taste of beer. Taste being the key word. Beer enthusiasts are searching out new flavors and varieties, treating beer as a premium beverage, much the same way they’ve treated wine for years. It has become typical for restaurants to have long lists with dozens of craft brews, sometimes dwarfing their wine list. This compared to just few years ago when four or five beers was the norm. Beer is alive and well, it just looks a lot different now.

What emerging trends have you seen in the beer space? Do you think hard seltzers are here to stay? Have any zero-proof beverages sparked your interest? We’d love to hear what you think. Sound off on social media now and join the conversation.