Sierra Nevadas founder has called on big brewers to show more transparency

Sierra Nevada's founder has called on big brewers to show more transparency

The head of Sierra Nevada Brewing Co has renewed calls for US big brewers to be more transparent over the craft beers they own, branding it an “ethical” issue.

In an exclusive interview with just-drinks, Ken Grossman, founder of the California-based craft brewer, spoke out over the frustration small brewers still feel as Anheuser-Busch InBev and MillerCoors do not include their names on craft-like brands such as Goose Island and Blue Moon. “It would be nice if there was a little bit more transparency in the marketplace,” Grossman told just-drinks.

But, he added: “Consumers are getting smarter and smarter, and there are plenty now who know which brands are owned by which big breweries and that does affect some of their buying decisions.

“I think it’s more of an ethical (thing). You shouldn’t necessarily hide behind who you are.”  

In an interview with just-drinks last month, MillerCoors' sales president Ed McBrien said he did not find the debate over what defines a craft beer "helpful". He said: "Ultimately, it’s up to the consumer to decide if they like the beer and how they characterise it."

Grossman also said he believed there is a “lack of soul” in bigger operations, which, he argued, is the reason craft brewers are growing so strongly. Figures from the Brewers Association last week showed that US domestic craft beer volumes grew 18% in 2013

However, the Sierra Nevada founder acknowleged there was little that can be done about the issue. “We live in a capitalist society in America, it’s a business practice that’s legal and so be it.”

Grossman said he had received “plenty of enquiries” over the years about selling up. But, he said: “I wouldn’t sell out to reap a bunch of money and to some organisation that I’m maybe not that well aligned with.”

He also revealed that the company is expecting to start exports to Japan, its first Asian market, later this year. 

Expert analysis

Craft Beer Market in the US 2012-2016

Craft Beer Market in the US 2012-2016

The analysts in this report forecast the Craft Beer market in the US to grow at a CAGR of 17.46 percent over the period 2012-2016. One of the key factors contributing to this market growth is the chan...read more