Looking to the future: What to watch in beer in 2016 – and beyond

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What makes the beer sector an exciting one to watch in 2016? From flavored beers to new breweries, here are some areas with promising potential.

Innovations that tap into multiple trends; an increasing diversity of brews; and the potential of technology to differentiate brands were among the areas identified by our panel during Beer and Beyond, our free online event, which you can listen to on demand here.

Kevin Baker, senior consultant at Canadean; Edward Brunner, head of food and beverage systems at Cambridge Consultants, and Simon Spillane, Public Affairs Director, The Brewers of Europe highlighted areas that make the beer industry an exciting one to watch in 2016 and beyond.

Flavored craft beers: The intersection of trends

Premiumization, craft, sweeter flavors and non-alcoholic beers are all trends in today’s market, said Kevin Baker, senior consultant, Canadean. Identifying where the main trends are colliding – or could collide in the future – is particularly interesting.

“Looking at where some of the mega trends intersect: you’ve got this move toward flavored beers and fruit beers, you’ve got the continuing growth of craft beer, and you’ve got the trend towards non-alcoholic beer,” he said.

“What you’re interestingly seeing is some brewers are creating products that sit on those intersections, so especially in the craft area you’re seeing a growth of flavored beers, very strong growth in that – more so in the States, but you’re beginning to see it in Europe as well.

“And it will be interesting to see if any of the craft brewers actually move into the non-alcohol space.”

Markets and brewers

In other areas, Baker notes a changing competitive landscape as a result of the AB InBev and SABMiller deal. The disposals that happen as a result of the tie-up (for example the sale of Snow to China Resources Beer) will also shape the market.

Geographically, there are specific markets that should hold a lot of interest for brewers, added Baker: for instance Nigeria, Mongolia and India (India may have negligible per capita consumption, but its population size makes it a key market to watch).

Bringing consumers back to beer

More than 900 new breweries have opened in Europe since 2013, and The Brewers of Europe now represents the interests of more than 6,500 breweries.

For Simon Spillane, Public Affairs Director at The Brewers of Europe, this demonstrates the diversity of the market and shows how there is the opportunity for beer to appeal to a wider range of consumers.

“Five years ago we were talking about 3,000 breweries in Europe and now there are 6,500,” he said. “I would be very interested to see how this trend continues developing in 2016, both in terms of number of breweries but also the diversity, the choice of beers that are on the market.”

Such diversity also offers a chance to get into occasions that have been left for wine, or bring back consumers who had turned away from beer, he added.

“This diversity is an opportunity for both the micro brewers but also for the global brewers – this general excitement and interest around the category as a whole.”

Differentiation through technology

Edward Brunner, head of food and beverage systems at Cambridge Consultants, agrees that diversity is an important factor, playing into the trend for personalization.

“Continued diversity in choice, the different types of flavors available, the different combinations of ingredients, it gives consumers more options and the ability to personalize,” he said.

“And building on that: how that can be bought to consumers in different ways. So do we just continue to increase the number of SKUs available, or do we come back to technology but use technology to create differentiation in different places, be that at home or in the on-trade, things like infusion systems.”

In the case of the on-trade, this could encourage people to explore something different at bars, rather than sticking to what they know at home, he added.