Embrace change in your alcohol range

Twenty years ago today, Mama by the Spice Girls was number two in the charts and Tony Blair was days away from leading Labour to power for the first time since 1979.

In this week's issue of Retail Express, Steve Ricketts of Brewdog harks back to those golden months of 1997.

“In 1997,” he says, “you could buy eight cans of Foster’s for £6. Fast-forward 20 years and multiple duty increases and you can still find that price today. The value growth has not been there for independents.”

The fight for space on the lager shelves over the past 30 years has been tough, so it really isn’t surprising that eight-for-£6 deals on Fosters etc have held sway.

It’s an interesting challenge. Young upstart brewers are more likely to get column inches than they do metres on shelf – as Steve himself acknowledged to Retail Express, ‘craft has a big share of voice…but it has a value of £84m, a 2% market share’.

You could buy eight cans of Fosters for £6. Fast-forward 20 years and multiple duty increases and you can still find that price today

His claim is that craft is finally adding value on to beer shelves. Indies have been slow to catch on, he believes – that 2% market share figure includes only £8.6m in indies and impulse stores.

The debate on craft can get long and tedious. David Lette, premium brands director at Heineken which has just introduced a new craft range called Maltsmiths (the IPA of which is pretty tasty, I have to add), says that craft is about how much “passion” the brewer has.

“Whether that’s big, small. Brewdog is quite a big brand, some people say that means it’s no longer craft – of course it is, it’s a fantastic product,” he adds.

Maltsmiths or Brewdog – it doesn’t matter what the name is or whether it’s “craft” or not. Ricketts has been selling in the “speed of change” and “the opportunity” to cash & carries.

Use that as your guide. And enjoy the catfight while craft grows and grows.

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