While spirits barely edged out beer as the most popular alcoholic beverage enjoyed by consumers in 2010, the market has hardly fallen flat. According to the latest research from Mintel, domestic beer is the clear favorite, followed by imported varieties; but 33 percent of all beer drinkers aged 21 and up are drinking more domestic craft beer.

Only a modest percentage of beer drinkers (13 percent) say they prefer domestic craft or microbrew beers (compared to 43 percent for domestic and 22 percent for imported), but an impressive 59 percent say they like to try them, and 51 percent would try more craft or microbrew beers if they knew more about them.

“Craft beers have increased in popularity in the past five years, and enjoyed a boost in their consumer base,” said Garima Goel Lal, senior analyst at Mintel. “Craft beer is most popular with the 25 to 34-year-old crowd, so manufacturers would be wise to target this demographic and educate them more about artisan beers.”

While craft brews are gaining an edge in popularity, price is a deterrent for some drinkers when it comes to trying or purchasing them. Forty-one percent of drinkers only enjoy craft/ microbrew beers as a treat because they are expensive. Meanwhile, 29 percent report drinking less craft beer than they did a year ago because of the price; however, the market is showing some resilience as 29 percent of consumers who report drinking more beer than they did a year ago say they are drinking more craft/microbrew beer as an affordable luxury. 

“The recession hit many industries hard, and the beer market was no exception,” Goel Lal said. “The good news is, it appears that the influence of the recession is becoming less pronounced on the beer market in terms of losing volume. The number of beer drinkers who are drinking less beer has decreased since 2009.”

Mintel’s research also found that the package their beverage of choice comes in is just as important as the beer itself for the consumer:

  • 63 percent of beer drinkers prefer a bottle
  • 20 percent prefer to drink their beer from a can; and
  • 8 percent are partial to draft beer served from a large container.
  • Just 2 percent prefer a keg.

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