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Whether it's beer, soda, or spirits, there is something brewing in the craft beverage segment. While cities across the United States have raised their glasses (and cans) to this growing movement, the last 20 years in particular have brought an outpour of enthusiasm and innovation into the industry. What is causing the cultural shift from big-label brand to artisan innovations?
The Genesis of Craft: Beervana
Big-label brands once dominated the beer market in the United States, but in the last two decades, the craft beverage market has transformed, now claiming more than 3,400 craft breweries, altogether making up more than 20 percent of beer sales. The beginning of this movement calls Portland, Ore., also known as "Beervana," its home.
Beer writer John Foyston said that one of the qualities that makes Portland true to its Beervana name is its craft beer density and availability. Consumers are able to go to the market and fill their stomachs with craft selections. It's no surprise, considering that Portland, due to its location, has an abundance of water, hops, and malt. The city is brewing heaven.
Growing Consumer Expectation and Demand
In the past, cloudy beers were a hard sell. Operators feared consumers would believe their products were brewed improperly. Now, with the consumer attraction to IPAs, operators who once focused on German-beers are now exploring different routes of brewing.
"Now I don't think there's another place in the world that has any more beer styles available than here," beer consultant Fred Bowman said.
Other places in the country, seeing the immense growth in Portland, are now looking to the city to inspire the craft scenes within their own neighborhoods. But this transformation is not only limited to beer, but craft beverage as a whole.
The Pop-Up of Craft Soda
Craft soda is a new trend that operators and consumers alike are examining under the microscope. Not only does craft soda provide customers a more unique experience, there is also a general, presumed consensus that craft equals better-for-you, high quality ingredients, making artisan beverages all the more appealing choices than big-brand names.
"There is definitely a movement related to craft concepts...because I think consumers in general are looking for new and exciting and different flavor profiles, and they're really conscious of the ingredients and what they're having," Rick Wolf, president and COO of Oath Craft Pizza, said. "I think you have to really take a look at the full transparency and everything that you're doing..."
Craft is just beginning. As consumers demand to know more about what goes into their food, brands will have to pay attention and speak up. Craft is the developing answer to not only satisfying the consumer craving for good taste, but also the consumer craving for good food philosophies.