I get a lot of e-mails on a regular basis from PR firms pitching one story or another for their clients. Many times they don’t even have anything to do with beer because most firms don’t have a separate category and just lump all beverages, and usually food, together in one category. Today I got one that at first glance seemed destined for the delete key, though it was more interesting than most of the ones I get.
It was titled the “Ten Trends to Watch in Packaged Goods in 2007” and was complied by the market research company Datamonitor. Of the first nine, a few of their predictions could have some relevance to craft beer, but more likely to fringe malt beverages or other kinds of drinks. Those categories are Calorie Burning Beverages, Satiety-Enhancing Foods & Drinks, Local Sourcing of Ingredients, and Immunity Boosting Foods & Drinks.
Number 10, on the other hand, was “Better for You” Beer – Blame it on the “French Paradox.” Here it is in its entirety:
With beer losing ground to wine in many markets around the world, beer makers are beginning to fight back with new products promising new health benefits for beer. Stampede Light is claimed to be the “first ever government approved vitamin beer” for the USA market with its B-vitamins, folic acid and folate. In Germany, Karlesberg Braueri is out with a pair of new functional beers aimed at women. Karla Well-B, for instance, is made with lecithin, folic acid and other vitamins. Karla Balance mixes hops with lemon balm. Both products have just 1% alcohol by volume. Beer may never be the same.
That’s not one of the trends in beer I would have predicted needed watching, but then I don’t have the research apparently Datamonitor does. But I already have prima facie questions about it. Their initial justification is that “beer [is] losing ground to wine in many markets around the world.” But I haven’t seen anything more than polls that only anecdotally support that, and even some of that data doesn’t support that conclusion. Sales of beer are still many times wine (4 to 1 in the U.S.) so how true is that assertion?
I have no problem with the health benefits of beer being touted in beer marketing and advertising. Craft beer without any additives at all has many proven and theoretical health benefits. That the TTB doesn’t permit beer companies to make those claims because it might promote drinking is puritanical nonsense that has no place in a free society. Beer with health additives seem like novelties to me, however sincere their makers may be. Many I’ve tried taste just fine to me, but there appeal seems largely aimed at persons for whom the particular claim of each one resonates in some particular way for that customer. In other words, their appeal is more limited. They are, after all, niche products by definition and many are sub-niches of broader categories like health food products or organics.
So I just don’t see these as trends worthy of our constant attention next year. Far more likely trends to watch, I think, will be organic beers and gluten-free, but only time will tell. What do you think? What will be the hot new trends in beer next year?