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A Bright Future for Craft Beer


Denise Murphy, Sector Manager Alcohol, Bord Bia - The Irish Food Board


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With 80% of craft beer and cider revenue streams shut off overnight, the entire industry was forced to pivot from on-trade to off, targeting online sales and off-trade outlets. This strategy has been a big success and we believe the amount of new consumers who entered the category will continue to look for and request craft beer/cider when the on-trade reopens and the world returns to normality.

At this crucial hour for the craft beer and cider industry, to support the sector and help get a better picture of the consumer, Bord Bia commissioned consumer and trade research on the market.

In order to get a clear picture of the consumer we conducted focus groups, “super-fan” interviews, depth interviews and quantitative research which involved a 10 minute questionnaire with a sample of over 500 participants. To understand the on/off-trade decision makers, we conducted interviews with multiple large retailers, off-license chains and bar owners.

The Goal: To provide insights into the perception of craft beer & cider in the minds of Irish consumers and purchase-decision makers, to help producers identify growth opportunities and grow “craft” market share.


The background

In advance of conducting research, multiple breweries and cider makers were interviewed around Ireland to get an idea of what they believe to be the current perception of both consumers and decision makers. The outcome of those initial conversations was that producers believe that “craft” is largely misunderstood and a somewhat “toxic” word.

However, the consumer feedback told an entirely different story. “Craft” is on the precipice of truly large growth. Growth that has been a long time coming.

Historical issues like consistency, poor quality and perceived snobbery are all dissipating.


The story

What was once perceived as “hipster” and exclusive is now seen as easy-going and inclusive. Entrepreneurial, current and sophisticated are words regularly associated with craft beer and cider, but the three most common associations found were:

  1. Unique taste & flavour
  2. Local/Irish
  3. Creative

This shift of perception is important and is a tribute to the hard work put in by breweries and cider makers around Ireland. The appreciation for taste and flavour shows how the industry has grown from of a place of “inconsistency” and “poor quality” to a craft beer and cider industry that rivals the best in the world. Our research shows that the consumer and trade value the Irish craft beer and cider industry. They see its unique qualities and want more from it.

“How good we are at it in Ireland is really exciting and a point of pride for us... I keep coming back to Irish Craft beer” - Supermarket Buyer

While the story is largely positive there are still issues highlighted by the trade. The main issue was around knowing your fit and showing your difference. Taking a growth approach when speaking to trade is essential for the category’s success. If you are a beer/cider for a developed palate, you need to know this and use it as your USP (unique selling point). Similarly, if you are a beer/cider that is a stepping stone from mainstream to craft, you need to know this and use it to your advantage. Find out your USP in the context of local breweries and use this to negotiate with the trade.

Bord Bia will be debriefing this research in full on June 30th and will be taking a deeper dive into our findings. An invite will be shared in due course and we would strongly encourage all client companies in the craft beer / cider space to attend this event and engage with us on how it can help shape your future plans. 

In the meantime, if you have any questions about developing your USP or require any further Bord Bia support, please do not hesitate to reach out to steven.spillane@bordbia.ie.