CODO is, as I type this, helping a multinational company launch an important brand extension. This is such an enormous investment that the company spent 10 months conducting a rigorous market research process to determine its viability. Seeing behind the scenes and wading through their detailed findings report highlights an interesting quirk we’ve seen in the beer industry.
From 2010 to 2017, we worked predominantly with breweries in planning. And during this time, we rarely saw a brewery come to the table having conducted thorough market research. Whenever we discussed this, the consensus was that craft beer is exploding, everyone wants it and this train ride will never end(!). So defining your customers, looking at competition and even thinking about your portfolio strategy wasn’t really necessary. “We’ll brew what we like and sell whatever we don’t drink,” etc.
And this actually worked out fine through the early days of the beer boom because there was so much room to grow. But as we steadily crested 6k, 7k and eventually 8k breweries in the United States, the days of coming to market with little-to-no planning are now firmly behind us.
Enter longtime CODO friend and colleague Joel Hueston, Director of Commercial Strategy at First Key Consulting, a leading brewing industry consulting firm out of Vancouver, BC. I’ve worked with Joel for five years in my role as a professor at the University of Vermont’s Business of Craft Beer Program and on a few consulting projects in between. He’s one of our favorite people in the industry and we can think of no one better to explain the importance of market research for a craft brewery (or any food and beverage business).