BrewCon 2023: Craft brewers tap into strong demographic trends

Bernard Salt

Bernard Salt

Delegates at the Independent Brewers Association’s annual conference, BrewCon, have been told that demographics and consumer trends are working in their long-term favour and they need to be ‘bold and outrageously ambitious’.

Delivering the conference’s opening keynote speech, demographer Bernard Salt outlined the social trends that he believes craft brewers can tap into to grow their market, despite the industry’s present challenges.

Salt, famous for elevating smashed avocado to the level of an international economic driver, told the conference that demographic trends had seen Australia grow richer and more focused on lifestyle than ever before.

“I think the Australian people are telling us through their lived experience, through what they have actually done over the last 22 years; pursued lifestyle,” he said.

“Does your product build upon, does it align with and does it reinforce these core gut Australian values?” he asked


“Does it fit strategically with where Australia needs to be in the post-COVID world?


He said the shift towards lifestyle created opportunities for the brewing industry.

“When I was growing up in the 1960s and 1970s you know there were the big beer companies, and they focused on the working man.”

He said that while there was a beer for that audience, beer for the modern lifestyle market was new.

“The lifestyle that has emerged in the last generation or two, who owns that space?” he asked.

“Who owns that heartland space, that space of the future?”

“Well, it’s not one beer. It’s a collection. It’s the collection of beers here.”

He said when you go to the modern lifestyle-driven regions that have sprung up over the last generation, you will find craft breweries.

“And you will find your businesses in the heartland, in the growing heartland that engages the agricultural sector, the manufacturing sector that actually reinforces and aligns with Australian aspiration and culture,” he said

“It’s big, swashbuckling, patriotic stuff. That’s the level of thinking I think we need as a people, and certainly as an industry in the post-COVID world”

Despite the challenges that craft beer is facing as market growth slows, Salt’s presentation struck a positive note highlighting the opportunities that the industry has to position itself with consumers and also with government.

He noted that as an agricultural-based manufacturing industry, brewing had a powerful lobbying case.

“That is the first big tick for the independent brewing industry,” he said.

“I would say you are supporting and developing, you are engaging the supply chain into the Australian agricultural industry.

“And the second one is manufacturing. We [Australia] have outsourced that over the last 20 years through globalization.

“It’s time to bring manufacturing home,” he said.

“Imagine bringing agribusiness and manufacturing together in multiple sites across the Australian continent,” he said, noting that’s exactly what the brewing industry does.

Salt’s presentation developed several key themes introduced by IBA Chair Richard Watkins in his welcome address, including a growing focus on the development of a category growth strategy referred to as Beer Australia.

Watkins told Brews News after his speech that the term ‘Beer Australia’ has been bandied around the industry for a number of years and has recently become a greater focus.

“I think it’s time to actually have a crack at creating Beer Australia where all breweries in Australia work together to really sell a compelling story for beer,” he said.

“And we’ll certainly move it forward through the IBA once we work out exactly what the scope is and what it actually means to all our members.”

Beer Australia will be the focus of a panel discussion on Day 2 of the conference, featuring Richard Watkins, Owen Johnston from Hop Products Australia, Paul Daley from the Australian Cicerone Community and Bob Pease

BrewCon, the Association’s first since 2019, continues on the Gold Coast today and tomorrow.

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