Heres a look at what will influence the global beer category in 2015

Here's a look at what will influence the global beer category in 2015

The second part of January's management briefing, which previews the year ahead for the global drinks industry, is itself a two-parter. Here, Spiros Malandrakis, senior alcoholic drinks analyst at Euromonitor International considers the four key trends facing the beer category.

  • The peak for craft?

This most irreverent of segments is switching its bohemian attire for a smart casual look as the corporate suits attempt to dress down for the occasion. And, it’s getting crowded in there. As the explosive adolescent years are now behind it, and the craft proposition is coming of age, the segment's inevitable convergence with big beer sets fresh aspirations and challenges. From a dearth of quirky brand names to hop shortages, and from improvements in distribution networks, retail policies and lending availability to the widening pitfall of ‘’bandwagon microbrewing’’ (that led to the inexorable burst of the previous cyclical micro-bubble of the 90s), craft is now part of the mainstream as much as it is the charming outsider.

Competition amongst the small players will remain as paramount as the industry behemoths’ respect towards the heritage of the craft brewers they will inevitably take under their wing. Consistency and quality control on the one hand, and clarity in regards to the narrative on the other, will be the dual pillars making or breaking the segment. Its inherently disruptive nature should also remain at the core of its proposition as radical experimentation, local credentials and independent character will remain the key drivers moving forward.

  • Speers

Partly an accidental offshoot of the craft revolution and partly a last line of defence for 'Big Beer' fighting off the advancing spirits tide, spirit-flavoured beers – or speers - will enter the mainstream and carve their own niche as one of the most prominent flag bearers of hybrid experimentation and the blurring of category lines. From barrel ageing to spirits amalgamation, with the common denominator of higher abvs , speers will make inroads in both mature and emerging markets fighting on two fronts; Against maturity across the west and against cultural traits favouring spirits consumption in markets such as India. 

  • Flavoured, low- and non-alcoholic lose their stigma

Flirting with the ever-elusive female demographic, but increasingly adopting a more gender-neutral positioning, flavoured, low- and non-alcoholic alternatives will consolidate and increase their share of throat. Demographic forces, legislative changes, lifestyle fads and leaps forward in terms of production techniques will guarantee the impressive performance of the non/low alcoholic segment in both mature and emerging markets. They will, however, remain a niche, much like flavoured variants that, spearheaded by the radler segment, will provide an entry point for the sweeter palates of the millennial generation while mediating the chronic declines of 'Big Beer' icons.

  • Home is the new micro(brewing)

With microbrewers moving confidently centre stage, the opening left on the brewing fringes will be covered by mini-scale home production and technological advances streamlining the process. While off-trade, home consumption will also remain in focus, the playing field will not be dominated by gimmicky dispensers but rather by the democratisation and deconstruction of the brewing process and the social sharing of recipes and ideas. Such ventures bridging technology, brewing and the internet of things will account for minute volumes but might well provide inspiration for the next waves of craft launches.

For the second chapter of this beer preview, click here.