It’s certainly not new news that the craft beer “trend” is here to stay. But what gets a little less attention is the similar explosion of craft spirits in the United States. With recent news such as Constellation Brands’ acquisition of Ballast Point Brewing & Spirits (which, in addition to a popular beer portfolio, also produces several “small batch” spirits brands such as Three Sheets rum and Devil’s Share whiskey), it’s clear that Big Liquor wants in.
While defining spirits as “craft” or “artisan” is a relatively recent phenomenon, what draws consumers – and especially those elusive Millennials – to these brands is nothing new. As any CPG marketer will tell you, it’s all about the story and personality behind a brand. Spirits marketers should consider taking MediaPost’s advice: “Be willing to let consumers into the process. Reveal how you make your product, share the origin of the ingredients or parts and be proud of where you do business. Millennials want that back story.” Here at Domus, we have had a lot of success developing and expressing brand narratives through our partnership with Diageo, so we know the importance of this firsthand.
While craft beer has seen unprecedented growth, taking a chunk out of Big Beer’s market share, craft spirits may have a more difficult time. For one thing, spirits consumers are not as well-informed. Per Entrepreneur, “While beers are identified by their parent company…consumers connect directly with specific spirits brands. Few fans of…Jim Beam whiskey realize [it’s] part of the Japanese spirits company, Suntory.” Moreover, large distilleries have the benefit of time. As the Wall Street Journal points out, “Whiskey requires an aging process. That keeps a natural lid on growth rates for craft distilleries.”
No matter the outcome, it will be fascinating – and delicious – to see what happens!
Which craft spirits brands do you think have what it takes to stand up to the large distillers? Which will be next to get scooped up by the big guys? What other trends do you predict for 2016?