The news that Camra is canvassing its 177,000 members on which direction the pressure group should head in, now that it has achieved its original aim, is a huge sign of the times. Once upon a time, only six companies produced a massive 80 per cent of the UK’s beer – and that’s why Camra had to be set up. Achieving its aim of promoting choice for consumers and pushing the need for high-quality, traditional brewing techniques, it now needs a new reason for being.
The country has 1,500 certified breweries producing 11,000 different brands of beer.
The craft ale revolution has brought a lot of great knowledge to the table, yet there is still a massive hold on the average drinker’s palate by the national and multinational brewers. Their history, scale of production, marketing budgets and brand recognition means they are still the go-to drink for your average pub frequenter. But as the knowledge of different micro and craft brews continues to grow amongst millennials – the big brewers could benefit from learning a thing or two from the smaller breweries.
Freedom to Experiment
One thing which attracts many beer lovers to craft and micro ales is the wide range of flavours and types. The micro-brewers increasingly need to offer something unique and special in order to be taken on by drinkers.
This is something that the larger breweries don’t need to do as they can rely on effective marketing campaigns – be it lifestyle advertising or big branding exercises with glasses, posters, competitions, and the like.
Daring to head back to the drawing board and take a chance with a new line or flavour might be something to try. Possibly in the form of collaborations.
Seasonal Products As Opposed To Seasonal Advertising
Likewise, seasonal products are a very attractive aspect of micro-brewery output. Production on a small scale allows shorter runs of products and therefore less risk that the “May Day Weekend Bramble Ale” will go out of date (in terms of reference) before it is sold.
The big brewers promote their product with seasonal advertising and packaging come Christmas, summer and things like the World Cup; but the drink itself rarely changes, if ever.
Even if it’s a loss leader when doing it on such a grand scale, could this be a way the big brewers could crib from the techniques of the smaller players?
Okay, I know, it’s superficial and a bit shallow, but it’s always nice when your beer can make you smile before you’ve even tasted it because the label looks great. Even if it’s just a witty name or some creative artwork; this is something that the big, well-established breweries ignore.
Come on, show a bit of character. You might enjoy it as much as us.
Beavertown; an example of engaging and creative branding.
Now, I want to make sure we don’t have to be contacting our solicitor here, so let’s be clear; I’m not suggesting for a second that the big breweries use anything unnatural in their product.
But what they don’t do it push the angle of naturally sourced, organic, environmentally friendly processes. A lot of micro and craft drinkers love that their beer producer is interested in these things; why don’t the big boys do the same?
Friendly and Personal
I know this isn’t exclusive to the beer industry, but it’s easy for a large company to quickly become faceless and impersonal. That’s fine when you want a product or service which doesn’t rely on human interaction – we don’t want the brakes on our car to be made by somebody who’s happy to have a laugh and a joke on their packaging, for example.
But, when it comes to enjoying a drink, it would be nice to know you’re getting it from a group of like minded people in a brewery rather than some faceless logo owned by a multi-national conglomerate.
And that is partly why lots of micro-breweries develop such a cult following. They are relatable. You’re a part of something when you drink it. You’re supporting individual people’s livelihoods when you stumble across it in a pub out of town and feel obliged to sample a pint out of loyalty.
There’s no better way to instil longevity in your customer base – and who wouldn’t want that?
Valuing Taste Alongside Profit
This is probably a case of going back to your roots. The big beers we all know and love didn’t suddenly start being sold all around the world overnight. They were all micro-breweries at one point in their life.
When the investors arrive and open up a bigger market and all the benefits that come with it; often the travel, required shelf life and favoured tastes of different markets mean the taste has to change.
But it’s probably tricky for the big brewers to place taste alongside profit in importance when you have directors and investors, who are business owners first and beer drinkers second, calling the shots.
All of this isn’t to say that the big breweries need a major reform – far from it. They are clearly doing most things right in order to be where they are today. And hats off to them. This is just a few of the things that we think they could learn from the amazing micro-brewers, who do just as a fantastic job.
This blog was written by Don Valley Engineering who manufacture and supply malting equipment and systems.