A few weeks ago I was in Nashville for the Craft Brewers Conference and BrewExpo America. I know, poor me.
I like beer; that’s no secret. But this trip to Music City was merited due to the strong presence that labels and packaging play in what has become a booming yet hyper-competitive market. With about 13,000 attendees and more than 700 exhibitors, it was a huge, dynamic show. As a first-time attendee, I was thoroughly impressed. Every single aspect of the craft beer supply chain was represented, and there were dozens of exhibitors showcasing PS labels, shrink sleeves, label printing and application equipment, as well as pressure sensitive promotional products. The show floor was packed, not to mention the conference sessions related to labels and packaging. Craft brewers were eager to learn about how they can set their brand apart. If you’re a converter serving this market, I recommend looking into exhibiting at the 2019 event in Denver.
One of the show takeaways for me was a theme of “independence.” With the biggest players in the beer industry – AB InBev, Heineken, Calrsberg – swallowing up smaller but up-and-coming breweries, the stalwarts that refuse to sell out are differentiating themselves by moving away from describing themselves as craft beers, but independent beers. After all, the aforementioned big three beer giants are indeed selling craft beer, but following acquisition, the craft brews they market are now part of the big beer machine.
Labels are playing a role in letting consumers know who is who. Buyers can now tell if a particular beer is made by an independent craft brewer by looking for the newly launched Independent Craft Brewer Seal on the label or packaging. The seal was launched by the Brewers Association (BA), an organization dedicated to promoting and protecting small and independent craft brewers in the US, who defines a craft brewer as small, traditional and independent.
The logo is designed as an upside down beer bottle, which the BA says symbolizes how the US craft beer movement has literally turned beer on its head worldwide.
Speaking of buying, with this issue doubling as our International Buyers Guide, you have in your hands a directory of label industry suppliers both big and small, some independent and others part of a larger group. There are advantages to working with both. Like the craft and independent beer industry, labels are an area of growth, and one that’s also very competitive, so standing out is paramount. And the companies listed in the L&NW Buyers Guide are here to help you do just that.
Steve Katz, Editor