Sometimes I wonder. I usually don’t quote industry newsletters at length, but occationally I just gape when I read what so called analysts of the beer markets manage to give as qualified advice. I assume that there is even more to be had if you pay them by the hour…
European beer exporters risk being squeezed out of the US market as Americans increasingly turn away from well-known European brands in favour of locally produced ‘craft’ beers.
Sales of European beers look to have stalled in recent years and analysis suggests that one reason for this could be the rise of real ale brands, known as ‘craft’ beers in the States.
According to Euromonitor research analyst Roman Shuster, the problem for European exporters lies in stale marketing, but he emphasises the need to differentiate between the two most popular European beers consumed in the States – Corona and Heineken -and smaller European exporters.
He told BeverageDaily.com: “The shrinking share for imports is coming from the big time brands, Corona and Heineken. It’s driven by the fact that they are not new, unique or different. Once they became top ten brands, their difference was eroded.”
On the other hand, he said that the appeal of craft beers is in the variety on offer and, with more than 3000 craft breweries in the US, they have more opportunity to stand out as something new. This is where he feels there is still opportunity for European beer exporters to make their mark.
“Corona got to where it is through iconic advertising but it hasn’t changed for many years,” he said. “Stella Artois has done well in the last three years because it is cool, new and interesting and that reflects on you. It is important to maintain a cool and interesting look.”
Shuster also highlighted the significant regional differences in the United States, and suggested that Heineken and companies like it would benefit from more localised marketing. Conversely, he said that smaller exporters should play up their difference and European credentials.
“Americans are always going to be torn between taste and story in their beer. Europeans need to communicate that ‘European cool’ story more effectively,” he said.
What are the poor Mexicans to do, when their brews are neither European or tasty? I have a strong feeling that Mr. Shuster’s grasp of consumer psychology is as weak as his knowledge of geography.
(If this was a more sophisticated multi-media blog, I would burst into song here:
Don’t know much about geography
Don’t know much trigonometry
Don’t know much about algebra
Don’t know what a slide rule is for
But I do know that one and one is two
And if this one could be with you
What a wonderful world this would be
You aren’t missing much, though!)
Sorry about that. The alternative approach is for the Europeans to do something completely different. As if Europeans, be it beers, nations or individuals can be lumped together. Mr. Shuster should do a marketing stint aimed at Europe, and we’ll see how far he gets.
No, the thing for European breweries, big or small, is to enter the market with craft brews themselves. Some of them are doing this very successfully already, witness the amazing range of beers imported to the US market by the Shelton Brothers.
As for the big players, they should pick the more tasty beers from their portfolio. Beers with flavour, heritage and a story to tell. Replacing Heineken with Stella is not doing the trick, you’ll have to offer a decent Czech pilsener instead.
And the great thing for the small breweries from the more obscure corners of Europe is that they don’t have to spin tall tales about their beers. They, as their colleagues among the US craft brewers have true stories to tell. In the long run that will be decisive. Not in deciding who’s hauling the largest volume of crap lager, but in who’s doing a nice earning in the other end of the market.