Top Challenge in Craft Brewing: Fierce Competition

The popularity of unique, full-flavored craft beers continues to rise. The craft brew industry accounts for $23.5 billion of the $107.6 billion beer sales in the United States. According to the Brewers Association, the number of breweries in the United Stated reached over 5,300 in 2016, a nearly 17% increase from the previous year and a huge jump from the 1,460 total reported in 2006. In this growing market, brewers are embracing prime opportunities to introduce bold, distinctive flavors to local beer lovers and fans around the world. But competition is fierce.
 
The patronage of local breweries is also on the rise, with continuing popularity leading to new, independent microbreweries popping up at a rapid pace all over the country. In fact, 99% of U.S. breweries were small and independently owned as of 2016. But it’s not just local competition that brewers have to contend with; some of the biggest names in beer—like Anheuser-Busch InBev, Molson Coors, and Constellation Brands—have made their way into the craft brew market with recent acquisitions. Anheuser-Busch purchased its tenth U.S. craft brewery in May of last year, a trend that is gaining traction as more companies follow suit.

In this constantly changing industry with thin margins and rapidly arising competitors both large and small, how can craft brewers hope to sustain growth in such a competitive landscape? The answer is to offer consistent, quality products to consumers. When brewers are able to produce great beer with the distinctive profiles consumers have grown to love, businesses can attract new customers, establish a strong reputation, and expand their business operations.  Each and every keg and bottle purchased is an opportunity to gain a new customer or satisfy an existing fan.

To consistently produce great beer, breweries need to invest in a strong quality process. The reality is that brewers often rely on basic quality assurance methods such as pass/fail testing, or don’t have a dedicated quality team in place at all. While pass fail/testing may be enough to support small operations and can keep sub-par beer from reaching the consumer, brewers using these methods are missing out on vital opportunities for continuous product improvement, process optimization, and sustainable growth. To scale its operations for wider distribution, a larger customer base, and greater profit, a growing brewery needs access to the right product and process data at the right time.

In addition, now more than ever, brewers should also invest in the safety of their products. The popularity of new hybrid beer types in the market, such as fruit, herbed, and coffee flavors, has led to beer makers moving beyond the traditional ingredients of barley, malt, and hops. Fruits, vegetables, syrups, and other raw ingredients that are prone to health issues or spoilage are now making their way into the production process, and brewers need the traceability to ensure these items are safe for consumption.

By implementing statistical process control (SPC) methodologies, growing craft breweries can leverage quality data to improve product consistency, quality, and safety. With Quality Intelligence software, brewers can not only ensure each product has the correct flavor with the right taste and aroma characteristics, but also save time and money by preventing problems before they can ruin a batch of beer. Additionally, analyzing process data can also highlight opportunities for cost savings, such as eliminating overfill and optimizing raw materials management, and can ensure ingredient safety through greater traceability across the supply chain.

Real-time data collection and analysis also provide strategic insight throughout each stage of production—from the brewhouse and fermentation to conditioning and packaging—and can pinpoint inefficient processes and opportunities for growth. By moving beyond traditional quality assurance methods and gaining a competitive edge with Quality Intelligence, brewers can sustainably scale their business with data-backed decision-making, reach new customers in a wider market, and create consistent, quality products that beer lovers will embrace.               
 
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