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With craft beer continuing to rise in popularity, food retailers have greater motivation than ever to get more out of the segment. Among those doing just that is Pittsburgh-based Giant Eagle, a multiformat food, fuel and pharmacy retailer with 418 stores throughout western Pennsylvania, Ohio, West Virginia and Maryland.
"As consumers are presented with an ever-growing selection of beverages, the great taste, variety of styles available and moderate price point of craft varieties have taken hold of their attention in a significant way," notes company spokesman Dan Donovan. "Giant Eagle is working to provide customers with quality craft beer options to meet this increased interest."
Donovan agrees with the idea that the segment "as certainly become a mainstream retail offering. The more complex flavor profiles of craft beers pair well with food, and this has made beer a more popular beverage for occasions where other options have previously dominated. In these instances, when compared with wine, the price of a 6-pack of beer is still a very good value."
In response to these consumer currents, Giant Eagle makes sure to call attention to its craft items. "Capitalizing on the greater interest in craft beer offerings, we are placing a growing emphasis on craft beer as part of our total merchandising plan, including share of shelf space, display space and inclusion in the company's weekly circular," remarks Donovan.
The retailer is also keeping a keen eye on the future of the segment. "Currently, IPA offerings are very popular among customers, but moving forward, Giant Eagle will continue to evaluate options to engage new customers and sustain growth in craft beer," says Donovan. "That may look like more complex beers like barrel-aged and sours, or improved portability with cans versus bottles, but is yet to be determined. As a retailer, Giant Eagle is focused on providing our customers with a balanced and fresh craft beer selection for the best overall value to continue to engage craft beer enthusiasts."
Beer of all kinds is in big demand during the summer, naturally, but other beverage alcohol segments stand to profit, too, as the grocer is well aware. "In addition to beer, the summer months provide opportunities to merchandise and promote flavored malt beverages, frozen pouches, light and refreshing summertime wines, and lighter spirits that are popular in summertime drinks," observes Donovan. "Giant Eagle customers rely on us for expertise on the latest offerings and beverage trends, and we ensure that is reflected in our merchandising and promotions."
Craft a Winning In-store Strategy
Supermarkets that want to leverage the growing consumer interest in craft beers must make the effort, like Giant Eagle, to merchandise and promote the segment sufficiently, according to George Ward, director of off-premise national accounts at Boston Beer Co., brewer of Samuel Adams.
"Retailers most often see success when they dedicate a certain amount of space to craft beers and stock that space with regional and leading brands that drinkers recognize," says Ward. "The No. 1 thing retailers can do is make sure the lead craft brands in their market are well represented and merchandised. In any market, the top 10 craft brands will represent between 50 percent and 70 percent of the craft sales. Retailers should offer the right assortment from these top brands and position packages at eye level, which will show drinkers that the retailer is in craft business. Retailers should also make sure to represent local craft beers to the degree they sell."
Further, craft varieties "should be included during all promotion periods, grouped together in the cold box, and positioned at eye level, where drinkers can easily see them," he advises. "We recommend merchandising around occasions such as tailgating and backyard barbecues, which gives drinkers easy shopping options, and providing food-pairing options, like beef and Boston Lager or seafood and Summer Ale, as many drinkers are looking for a flavorful cooking and pairing experience. Because craft drinkers will pay a little more money for a higher-quality, fuller-flavored beer, profits will increase for the retailer and craft drinkers will be happy and satisfied."
When asked what lies ahead for the segment, Ward foresees more good news, especially for Boston Beer's brews. "The Brewers Association believes craft beer can be as much as 20 percent of the beer category by 2020," he notes. "Whatever happens, we know drinkers will continue to reach for flavorful, high-quality craft beer. While it's hard to predict what flavor profiles will grow in popularity, right now IPAs are both the No. 1-growing style and continue to remain a favorite amongst devoted craft drinkers. Additionally, seasonal beers continue to be some of the top-selling styles in the U.S., a concept we introduced first to drinkers nearly 30 years ago. We continue to see seasonal beers growing in popularity every year with the release of our seasonal styles Summer Ale, OctoberFest, Winter Lager and Cold Snap."