Despite craft brewing fans’ battles against industry giants, most Americans don’t really care who makes the beers that they drink.
Forty-five per cent of American drinkers believe that independence does not matter when picking a craft beer, according to UBS evidence lab’s third annual survey of roughly 1,200 US alcohol consumers.
In other words, almost half of Americans don’t care at all if a trendy craft beer is owned and produced by AB InBev, the maker of Bud Light, or a small craft brewer completely independent from industry giants.
Only 30% of respondents said independence was “extremely important” in craft beer.
Further, most people don’t mind if a craft beer brand is acquired by a major company. Industry giants including AB InBev, MillerCoors, and Heineken have all made major investments in craft brewing over the last six years. Typically, news of an acquisition is met with boycott threats — but evidence suggests that most drinkers aren’t that concerned.
According to UBS, 41% of respondents believe a craft beer brand’s quality is unchanged after acquisition by a major brewer, and 11% actually believes the quality of the brand would improve instead of deteriorate.
As a result, UBS analyst Nik Oliver concludes that major companies like AB InBev and Heineken “can win in craft with M&A,” as long as they can convince drinkers that the craft brands they acquire are “trustworthy” and high-quality.
Many craft brewers that have resisted acquisition argue that independence is crucial for a beer to be considered craft. In June, the Brewers Association — a group of 5,300 small and independent American craft brewers — announced the launch of an “independent craft” seal to designate which beers are produced by independent craft brewers.
“Beer lovers want to know who is brewing their beer,” Bob Pease, the president and CEO of the Brewers Association, told Business Insider at the time. “The seal will help beer drinkers differentiate independent brewers from Big Beer in the marketplace and help them be a deciding voice in what will be on the shelf, rather than the largest beer companies who have tremendous distribution power.”
However, brands that have been acquired by companies such as AB InBev and Molson Coors maintain that drinkers are right not to care that much about independence.
“We are going to be able to achieve things that we never imagined and have an impact that we never imagined, and that’s incredible,” Wicked Weed co-founder Luke Dickinson said when the craft brewer was acquired by AB InBev in May, assuring fans that the beer itself would not change.