The craft beer category continues to grow, but at an increasingly slower rate.
According to numbers released this week by the Brewers Association, which represents small and independent U.S. craft brewers, the category’s mid-year growth for production volumes was just 5%.
That’s down from +8% this time last year, and +16% for mid-year 2015.
“The growth pace for small and independent brewers has stabilized at a rate that still reflects progress but in a more mature market. Although more difficult to realize, growth still exists,” says Bart Watson, chief economist, Brewers Association, in a release. “The beer world is highly competitive and there is certainly a mixed bag in terms of performance.”
“Some breweries are continuing to grow, whereas others are having to evolve their position and nurture new opportunities to ensure they keep pace,” he adds. “Many brewers are benefiting from on-premises and taproom sales, and recent state-based reforms have the potential to help brewers in new regions capitalize on this growth.”
The numbers reflect the gradual slowdown in craft beer growth. Overall, the category expanded only 6% last year, after realizing 15% growth in 2015. Beyond what Watson said, other factors include corporate takeover, market saturation and the curious, flighty palates of Millennials, who drink beer one day and then wine or spirits the next.
All this comes as the number of new breweries continues to mount. “As of June 30, there were 5,562 operating breweries in the U.S.,” the Brewers Association reports, “an increase of 906 from the same time period the previous year. Additionally, there were approximately 2,739 breweries in planning.”