— INSIDER (@thisisinsider) September 14, 2017
Reading lazy “journalists” for hip blog-turned-news-source websites using the phrase “Millennials are destroying the […] industry” has gotten fairly exhausting. It’s a worn out phrase that has some wading into hack writer territory at this point. Millennials are absolutely not destroying any given industry; rather, the norms and preferences of previous generations simply do not align with the thoughts and actions of the establishment generation.
I’m sick and tired of being referred to as a millennial, myself — at least, I was up until a few months ago. Now I’m pretty content with the title. By technical definition, I fit barely into the category of “Damned Millennial.” Regardless, let’s establish a definition so we can be on the same page.
Millennials are persons born between the early-to-mid 1980’s to early 2000’s. Let’s call it January 1st, 1983 until December 31st, 2001. We are also referred to as “Echo Boomers” as a majority of us are the children of the “Baby Boomer” generation. We are a massive segment of the population that are becoming established members of society. We are growing up, moving into houses, and starting families. Most importantly, we set buying trends in many segments of the global and American economies.
You could theorize that the economic shifts we’re seeing tend to happen when a large segment of a population reaches a financially stable age range. Fortunately, we Millennials are set to inherit a massive amount of wealth from the Boomers in the coming years, or so it has been reported. That being the case, our generation could be subconsciously preparing ourselves to place quality and durability among the most important factors in our purchasing decisions.
The truth of the matter is, however, that a lot of us still find ourselves in some tough places, financially. I’ll speak for us all when I say Millennials hope that we’re not being blamed for that, too. To be fair, a lot of us graduated into an American economy that had been called the worst since the Great Depression. One theme common among the jokes appearing in my social media timelines goes something like: Millennials are so poor. In reality, that only tends to be a subset of the generation.
But here we are going down an economic rabbit hole, and you just want to know about how my generation is abandoning beer.
In general, it appears that consumer preferences are changing. There is a new breed of buyer in the economic pool who tends to be drawn to quality products with higher (yet acceptable) price points, rather than just the most affordable items on the shelf. With the proliferation of internet access and the popularity of social media, there is almost an infinite amount of sources keeping consumers educated about all kinds of goods and services they may have never known about otherwise. This phenomenon has created new markets, in which everyday people are being connected to local artisans, bringing about the birth of the localvore, the consumer who primarily seeks out locally handcrafted foods and durable goods.
Contrary to the misleading copy that’s been popular in the media, the beer category in the United States did not grow or lose market position as a whole in 2016, but craft beer did grow by 6.2% to take command of 12.3% total sales in the American beer market. The talk of beer’s demise is primarily rising from the evidence that macro-produced beers continue to lose footing to wine, spirits, craft beer, ciders and other malt beverages.
Shakeups happen every once in a while in the beer industry — there was prohibition, the introduction of light beer, the late nineties brewpub surge, and now we basically have the mainstream acceptance of craft beer. Sure, the beer that dad kept in his fridge was alright, but today’s drinkers want to discover their own palates, whether it’s with bourbon, zinfandel or IPA.
That’s not to say that there isn’t a time and a place for an American Light Lager, but people are trending more towards regional and local when it comes to beer, just like they are with other niche goods and services. They are choosing global beer less, because there are an ever increasing number of local, regional and national options available to them.
As consumers become closer to their beer, they also get an education on the different ingredients that go into it. They come to love that local and regional breweries are using more traditional and locally sourced components in their brewing and packaging processes. Conversely, some types of ingredients that are used by larger breweries — mostly for scaling and cost-saving measures — can attract negative attention. People are avoiding things like rice, cheap adjuncts, corrective dyes, perfuming agents, extracts and high fructose corn syrup. In addition to avoiding cheap ingredients, many craft brewers cater to the special needs of their constituencies, like the needs of drinkers with gluten sensitivities.
Since craft breweries also tend to have younger owners and workers, who are by definition millennials themselves, they seemingly have a leg up at winning hearts and minds on the ground, too. They tend to take a more environmentally conscious approach to running the infrastructure and supply chain and they often display genuine care for and give back to their surrounding communities. The modern craft brewer is taking a thoughtful and passionate approach to not only their final product but the people consuming the products as well.
Isn’t it always everyone else criticizing millennials for freebies, mulligans, and participation trophies? Then they bitch about failing?
— Willy Mac (@BigAssMoustache) September 14, 2017
Don’t like failing? Change your strategy to fit the market. Survival of the fittest in true form.
— Willy Mac (@BigAssMoustache) September 14, 2017
Millennials aren’t killing beer. Beer isn’t going anywhere. The market is changing. And, as always, beer will adapt.