One of the concerns most often cited when discussing the growth of craft beer is the somewhat finite availability of shelf space and tap handles. Retailers have shown great flexibility in terms of increasing shelves and handles dedicated to craft beer, but the reality is that at some point we will reach full capacity. To continue growing, craft breweries will have to seek alternate outlets for their products.
The total U.S. beer market is around 200 million barrels. That seems like a lot of beer until you consider the size of the global beer market: close to 1.68 billion barrels! Craft breweries have only recently started to take advantage of the huge market opportunity outside of this country. In 2013, exports of U.S. craft beer increased 49.5% to 282,526 barrels worth an estimated $73 million. The top five overall markets outside of the U.S. were Canada, Sweden, the United Kingdom, Australia, and Japan. The fastest growing markets in 2013 were Singapore, Hong Kong, and Thailand.
The Brewers Association recently released figures for 2014, which show exports growing by 35.7% to 383,422 barrels worth $99.7 million. The top four markets remained the same, followed by Korea passing Japan as the fifth largest market. Canada accounts for a shockingly large percentage of U.S. craft beer exports: 53% (must be all of that beer they are drinking up in Winnipeg)! The highest growth rate in 2014 was the Brazilian market, followed by the Asia-Pacific region and Western Europe.
The Export Development Program (EDP) of the Brewers Association is tasked with promoting and assisting with the export of U.S. craft beers. According to the EDP, there are now 80 craft breweries exporting beer outside of the country. Membership in the EDP requires additional fees outside of the standard BA membership, but we are planning to become a member in early 2016.
Despite our future membership in the EDP, we have no immediate plans to export beer out of the country. Most of the 80 craft breweries that export (Sierra Nevada, Green Flash, Ballast Point, and Stone, to name a few) have something in common: size and scale. Those breweries have the ability to satisfy demand in their home markets, meet the requests of their distributors in other states, and the equipment to package beer that will maintain its quality long enough that it can be sent halfway around the world.
Our focus is growing our brand and our business first in our home market, and then across the entire Commonwealth. Like many startup breweries, we hope that we will one day have the ability to share our beer with a wider audience. When that day comes, our participation in the EDP will ensure that we are primed and ready!