2018 Australian Craft Beer Survey Results

Beer Cartel’s Australian Craft Beer Survey 2018 results are in, with independence, taxation and innovation at the forefront of consumers’ minds.

From 6,500 participants in its inaugural year in 2016, to over 18,000 participants in 2018, the Australian Craft Beer Survey by Beer Cartel represents findings from a segment of the community that’s dedicated to Australian craft beer.

Craft beer attitudes in Australia are positive and growing in strength. Survey results show that 94 per cent of beer drinkers believe the quality of craft beer is improving, while 85 per cent have said that they are now buying more Australian beer in place of imported beer.

When it comes to gender, 80 per cent of participants identified as male and 20 per cent as female. This is virtually unchanged from last year’s results, with a 79/21 per cent split.

Co-founder of Beer Cartel Richard Kelsey, who spoke with Matt and Pete on Beer is a Conversation earlier today, said that the aim of the survey is to provide breweries with insights that they otherwise wouldn’t have access to about their consumers.

Of the 250 places across the craft beer industry that promoted the Survey, Kelsey said that there wouldn’t have been one single place that would have accounted for more than five per cent. Kelsey, who comes from a market research background, said that the Survey provides breweries with the data they need to identify their customers.

“It is totally focused on those people that are already engaged within the market, so it’s not then looking at how do we get new people into the market,” Kelsey explained.

“Every year, our focus is always on craft beer drinkers, and I think we have a pretty good representation across the board.”

“It’s looking at what are the trends and the behaviours and what people are doing in the craft beer market from a consumer perspective.”

“From a research perspective, it’s a lot harder to understand how to get new people into the market.”

“That’s when it goes away from looking at numbers and that goes beyond the scope of what we do.”

Strong support for independence

The 2018 Survey indicates a steady desire by craft beer drinkers to support independent Australian breweries.

According to Survey results, one third of beer drinkers are aware of the IBA’s new Independence Seal. Last year, 82 per cent of respondents indicated that the IBA’s proposed Independence Seal would have a medium to large impact on the craft beer they purchased. Since the Seal’s inception in May this year, 83 per cent of respondents have indicated that the seal has a medium to large impact on their buying decisions.

The Survey also found that two thirds of drinkers were aware of the buyouts of at least one of the three leading Australian craft breweries in 2017, Pirate Life, 4 Pines and Feral. Of this sample, 56 per cent of drinkers have since reduced or stopped purchasing from these breweries.

Australia’s Best Craft Brewery was awarded to Feral in 2016, Pirate Life in 2017 and now Balter Brewing in 2018.

Kelsey said that Balter has come a long way in such a short time.

“I think part of that is, with the likes of Pirate Life and Feral having been taken over and people wanting to support Australian craft and just in general the amazing beers that Balter put out, that they’ve come to the fore very very quickly,” Kelsey said.

“It’s a fantastic result in a very short time.”

Perhaps not surprisingly, post buyout sentiment amongst voters has seen both Feral and Pirate Life drop to eighth and third place, respectively.

While many Survey participants voiced concerns about quality in the face of these buyouts, Beer Cartel has assured that “to date, there have been no noticeable changes” in beer quality. If anything, Beer Cartel has reported innovation and development by these breweries.

Drinkers understand taxation

While Beer Cartel’s target participants are dedicated craft beer drinkers, participants have more than just beer quality and taste on their minds. For the first time, the Survey included questions surrounding tax. Collectively, survey participants were able to closely estimate the average amount of tax ($24.56) they pay on a case of craft beer ($80.00), only payable on ABV above 1.15 per cent.

Drinkers correctly estimated that over a quarter of the money they spend goes directly to Government taxes.

Thirst for the new

According to the Survey, the majority of craft beer drinkers are on the lookout for new beers to try. On average, almost half of all purchases made by Australian craft beer drinkers are for beers they have never previously tried. This is consistent with last year’s findings, where 94 per cent of drinkers said that they were on the lookout for new and interesting beers.

Smaller is better

Beer Cartel reported that packaging was one of the major areas breweries wanted to focus on in this year’s Survey. The Survey found that four and six pack purchases are highest at 51 per cent, with singles at 22 per cent and cases at 27 per cent.

With regards to format, Australians remain preferential to smaller-format bottles and cans. The Survey found that respondents buy 330-375ml bottles and cans weekly and fortnightly, half purchase 500ml bottles or cans every few months or more often, and 26 per cent purchase 640-750ml bottles.

Beer Cartel found that consumer purchasing behaviours are consistent across beer styles, preferring smaller formats for limited-release beers, particularly 375ml.

Container deposit scheme

The 2018 Survey also focused on understanding the effectiveness of the New South Wales Container Deposit Scheme, which was implemented by the State Government in December 2017. The scheme, which will be implemented in Queensland by November 2018 and in Western Australia by 2020, has been designed based on the South Australian model.

However, key differences in how the scheme has been delivered in NSW have rendered the initiative relatively ineffective.

Unlike in SA, participating NSW breweries must pay the container deposit levy prior to sales they make, rather than based on actual redemptions, which can significantly impact cash flow. Bottles and cans must be returned undamaged and the barcode must be able to be read, whereas in SA, the only requirement is that the refund statement be clearly visible.

In light of these differences, only 17 per cent of respondents said they take their bottles and cans to a collection point. In SA, 64 per cent of respondents said that they always take their bottles and cans to a collection point.

The Australian Craft Beer Survey by Beer Cartel has become a fixture on the annual Australian beer calendar, with its results widely cited across the industry. The company won Best Online Retail Marketing at the 2018 ORIAS awards and was a finalist in the 2018 ALIA awards for Liquor Store of the Year.

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