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Craft cooperatives "absolute future" of premium US beer market - Rabobank

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Taking a cooperative approach will help struggling craft brewers survive the increasingly-competitive high-end US beer market, a Rabobank analyst has said.

Craft beer growth in the US is slowing down, prompting brewers to look to their peers

Craft beer growth in the US is slowing down, prompting brewers to look to their peers

A number of beer collectives have been formed in the US in recent years as craft brewers have clubbed together to share costs and production facilities. Examples include the six-strong CANarchy and the recently-expanded Artisanal Beverage Ventures

Last week, Japanese brewer Kirin announced plans to form a US craft beer collective after agreeing to buy New Belgium Brewing. The Colorado-based New Belgium will be the "anchor" for a US craft beer platform, Kirin said.

Speaking to just-drinks late last week, Rabobank's Jim Watson said the industry can expect more cooperatives to form, amid a slowdown in US craft beer. Watson also said the move to collectives is a "long-term catch-up on beer economics" for independent brewers.

"Craft collectives are the absolute future of the top-end," Watson said. "We are seeing this happen about four years out of the end of the boom time in craft, when literally no one had to address the business side.

"As long as you were innovative on the beer side, you could hit double-digit growth. Now, everyone who has got ambitions has to look at the top- and bottom-line. Collectives are a way to do this without losing important craft credentials."

Watson, who helps host a new podcast from Rabobank's beverage analyst team called Liquid Assets, also said craft hard seltzers can help independent brewers capture more consumption occasions. According to the analyst, the recent success for hard seltzers has benefited the whole beer industry by bringing in new consumers.

Watson said that craft beer collectives could win through combined launches similar to CANarchcy's launch of a mixed multipack that features a full range of beers from across the collective's six brewers.

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Sectors: Beer & cider

Companies: Kirin Brewery Co.

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