Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Brewers Association cites export growth

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Canada continues to have a big thirst for US craft beer, remaining the largest export country for America's  craft brewers, who saw the volume of beer sent to international markets surge 86 percent last year, the Brewers Association says.

Craft beer exports last year topped 110,000 barrels, for an estimated $23.4 million in revenue, a tiny fraction of $7 billion industry but nearly double the export dollar figure for 2010, according to statistics the Brewers Association released Tuesday. The statistics are based on the results of a recent industry survey.

Given that it's the US's northern neighbor, Canada is a natural market, one readily accessible, as far as transporting beer goes. The Brewers Association, the national nonprofit trade group for US craft brewers, says the volume of exports to Canada approached 28,000 barrels in 2011, a 127 percent increase fed by surging demand in British Columbia, Alberta and Ontario.

On the heels of Canada were the trans-Atlantic markets of United Kingdom and Sweden. The Brewers Association says exports to both countries totaled just over 13,000 barrels.

While Canada is the largest single-country market for US craft brewers, western Europe clocks in as the largest regional export market, with shipments surging 52 percent last year and now approaching about 52,000 barrels.

Exports to markets out of the country remain a bridge too far for New Jersey craft brewers (and a daunting project for any brewer sending unpasteurized beer, which craft beer is, to far away markets). This is for a lot of reasons. Perhaps most notably is New Jersey breweries relatively small size, and there being not much in the way of payoff potential in trying to take on exports.

In addition, many Garden State brewers are too busy working to keep up with core markets at home and in the New York, Pennsylvania, Delaware region (and some other mid-Atlantic states), and do not wish to impede supply.

That's something Dogfish Head in Delaware encountered as it sent beer to the UK and Canada but had to pull back last year to protect domestic supply. (For whatever it's worth, the Brewers Association's news release about skyrocketing export growth isn't tempered with a mention of circumstances such as that.) 

Still, brewers like Stone (San Diego), Great Divide (Denver) and Odell Brewing (Fort Collins, Colorado) have developed overseas markets; Boston Beer as well.

Eight years ago, with the assistance of federal funding, the Brewers Association launched a program to help US craft brewers carve out such export markets. Since that program's start, the Brewers Association says, US craft beer exports have risen sharply.

"The growth in international sales is remarkable in light of the lingering global economic recession. Despite decreasing purchasing power, consumer demand for American craft beers has remained strong and importers have continued to expand their portfolios of American craft beer brands, even in emerging markets, like Brazil and India," says Bob Pease, the Brewers Association's chief operating officer.

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