‘It’s in the eye of the beholder’ – drinks giants defend ‘craft beer’ branding | Business

Drinkers may be ordering “craft” beers without realising they are owned by multinational drinks giants, according to a new report, prompting concern that consumers are easily duped by artisan-style branding.

The British craft beer report, due to be released by small brewers’ trade body the Society of Independent Brewers (Siba) this week, will say that 98% of drinkers do not believe a global firm such as Budweiser owner Anheuser-Busch InBev or Molson Coors can make craft beer.

The findings cast doubt on the credentials of a growing number of beers bought or launched by major brewers, such as Camden Town, Fourpure, Goose Island, Meantime, Hop House 13, Blue Moon, Lagunitas and London Fields.

The report said 43% of 2,000 survey respondents believe craft beer has to be made by a small brewer. A similar proportion believes the brewer must be independent, while only 2% think a beer made by a multinational corporation deserves the craft label.

Mike Benner, Siba’s chief executive, said: “This new research shows that if consumers were fully aware of what they were buying then they wouldn’t consider any beers from the global beer companies as craft.”

Siba, whose members have sometimes disagreed over the role of big brewers, operates a Kitemarking system displayed on pump clips and kegs by beer makers who sign up to it.

The Assured Independent British Craft Brewer seal indicates that the company produces less than 200,000 hectolitres a year, abides by set standards of ingredient quality and are fully independent of any global beer company.

Greg Pilley, managing director of Stroud Brewery in Gloucestershire, said protection was required for “authentic, artisanal” brewers to avoid them losing out to big companies adopting the trappings of craft beer to woo consumers seeking authenticity.

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“If 98% of people think craft is about a small, independent, quality product, then how can a global brewery get away with using that term?” he said.

But Heineken, which owns Maltsmiths, Lagunitas and stakes in Beavertown and Brixton Brewery, said consumers could decide for themselves.

The brewer’s head of craft development, Jan-Willem Heeg, said: “Whether it’s ‘craft’ is really in the eye of the beholder. What we do see is that the majority of people view craft beer as looking a certain way, with slightly more flavour, and generally new, or perceived to be new.”

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