The rising quality and sheer variety of beers on offer are behind the rapid rise in sales to increasingly discerning consumers, who are seeking out flavoursome brews at beer festivals, at the cellar door, online or at new venues, from the local bar to the airport.
“Brewing in New Zealand has continued to grow into an innovative, sophisticated and valuable sector,” Brewers Guild of New Zealand President Emma McCashin says.
“Our breweries are producing beer with a uniquely Kiwi flavour and vision that is increasingly sought out by drinkers worldwide.”
Last year’s ANZ craft beer report revealed a third of brewers were already exporting, with a further third eyeing future exports. Data now shows that exports of higher alcohol beers (typical of craft styles) have grown from $A1 million five years ago to $A4.5 million last year.
John Bennett, ANZ General Manager Central Region for Commercial & Agri, says the bank’s research has charted a story of exceptional growth over the past three years. Fast-growing local demand and rising international interest is resulting in diverse opportunities for firms across the industry, he says.
But behind the spectacular growth rates it’s not all beer and skittles.
“For some brewers, such heady business expansion can feel like holding a tiger by the tail. Increasing competition comes with plenty of challenges,” Bennett says. “With more than 1,500 brews now jostling for consumers’ attention, a space race is emerging on the nation’s retail shelves.”
“Brewers can also find themselves bumping up against constraints in resources such as staff, manufacturing capacity, ingredients and working capital.”
Large and small brewers alike have been forced to confront a lack of scale, he says.
“Solutions are emerging. For some, it means developing business capabilities to attract investment to build plant. For others, licence or toll-brewing is attractive for consistent quality and known production costs, allowing the brewer to concentrate on product development and marketing.”
Some are eyeing a planned multi-million dollar state-of-the-art brewing and packaging facility, whose location close to the port in the NZ’s North-Island city of Napier will minimise costs associated with logistics, freight and production.
But the question on many people’s lips is whether the sector can continue to grow at the spectacular rates of the past few years.
“Our perspective is yes, and no,” says Bennett. “’No’ because it’s reasonable to suggest at some point as the sector matures the overall rate of sustainable growth will soften.