To Brew, or Not to Brew-That Is the Question: An Analysis of Competitive Forces in the Craft Brew Industry

By Kleban, Jack; Nickerson, Inge | Journal of the International Academy for Case Studies, March 2012 | Go to article overview

To Brew, or Not to Brew-That Is the Question: An Analysis of Competitive Forces in the Craft Brew Industry


Kleban, Jack, Nickerson, Inge, Journal of the International Academy for Case Studies


CASE DESCRIPTION

The primary subject matter of this case is a competitive analysis of the craft brewing industry in the U.S. The case is appropriate for courses in strategic management and entrepreneurship. The case has a difficulty level of three or four. The case is designed to be taught in 1-2 class hours.

INTRODUCTION

Craft breweries' operations are small, and they are considered to be traditional and independent. Traditional in the sense that they produce a malt flagship or brew full--bodied beers which many are made from recipes taken from German or English brewing origins. The malt is high grade, the brewing process is relatively slow and the production is small scale. The main differentiating factors of craft brewers are their unique styles of brewing which can lead to enhanced flavor and taste (www.craftbrewersassociation.org).

The craft brewery industry in the U.S. is experiencing rapid growth. In 2008, craft breweries sold a combined 8.5 million barrels of beer, and in 2009 they sold over 9 million barrels of beer. Although the general beer sales in the U.S. experienced a decline in sales by volume of 2.7% in the first half of 2010, and sales of imported beer were down by 9.8% in 2009, craft breweries were able to increase their sales by volume in the U.S. by 9%. In 2006, the reported number of craft breweries in the U.S. was 1370, and in 2010, 1625 craft breweries were reported. This represents a growth of over 18% in less than five years, the highest growth rate in U.S. history since before the prohibition era (www.craftbreweresassociation.org).

As evidenced, craft beer production and its consumption in the U.S. is on the rise. This case provides an in-depth look at the industry and its potential for growth in the near future. We also provide information about the industry's market structure, including competition within the sector.

Market Definition

Since 2006, the craft beer industry has been able to outperform the normal beer industry segment on both percentage margins and percentage growth because of their unique product characteristics, organizational structure and different marketing approach.

Craft breweries tend be small in size, typically producing less than 6 million barrels of beer (BBL) per year. They are independent, as less than 25% of the breweries are owned or controlled by an alcoholic beverage industry member that is not themselves a craft brewer, and traditional, as at least 50% of its volume is in either all malt beers or utilizes enhancers in order to create full-flavored beers (www.breweresassotiation.org).

Craft brewers focus on differentiation. Their value derives from utilizing both traditional styles such as using malted barley, combined with their own unique formulas by adding nontraditional ingredients, hence developing new styles that have no precedent.

Craft brewers tend to operate locally not only on the production side but, as well, they are very involved with the communities they serve. They are participate in a number of corporate social responsibility programs such as product donations, volunteerism, sustainable development, sponsorships, and other philanthropic endeavors (www.breweresassotiation.org).

Craft breweries are horizontally differentiated and have a limited number of substitutes. The main differentiating factor between the craft beers and other normal beers is the brewing styles and distinctive flavors. Craft beers have their unique taste and likeness, which come from the traditional slow brewing styles and recipes that have been perfected over the years. This is how craft beers differentiate themselves horizontally based on the taste and quality.

Craft type of beers appeal to consumers who are seeking a "taste revolution." For this particular consumer group, the increase in product features enhances their economic benefit, thus giving them more satisfaction. …

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