YOU KNOW CRAFT BEER IS BIG WHEN . . .
Walmart wants it. Yes, craft beer is coming to the ultimate discount retailer. In another sign that the fast-growing segment is the shining star of the beer industry, the nation’s largest company and biggest beer seller is planning to add shelf space to feature craft brews. Keeping with the “local” theme that is integral to the craft brewing concept, local store managers will have a big say in which new beers will be stocked where. While craft beer still only has about 5% of the beer market, the category is growing at a 14% rate compared with a 2% decline in the overall beer category. And small breweries continue to open at a record pace. In 2O1O a total of 1753 breweries of all sizes operated for some or all of the year, the highest total since the late 18OOs, according to the Brewers Association. And of course, the big beer brands have been putting more focus on their own smaller craft-styled extensions, such as Blue Moon by MillerCoors and Shock Top by Anheuser-Busch InBev. At the heart of it though, the essence of the craft beer movement – high quality, locally made beer in small batches by dedicated craftspeople – is somewhat counter to the big box, giant quantity, discount concept that is the core of Walmart. If this venture succeeds is anyone’s guess.