The talking points are out there, and the echo chamber is getting louder. “The craft-beer market has plateaued. The beer business is growing more challenging. It’s no longer a brewer’s market in craft beer.”
There’s truth to all of this, of course. The days of “if you build it, they will come” are long over for craft brewers (if they ever really existed), and today’s consumers more than ever know what they want and expect brewers to deliver. Is the market challenging? No more than every consumer market, in every sector. Competition is heated no matter what business you find yourself in, whether that’s consumer packaged goods, hospitality, or hell—even media and magazine publishing.
I can’t remember a time throughout my own career in media when the media business wasn’t “challenged.” From the mid- 1990s to the present, a spectre has hung over the media world as the “glory days” were behind us while some dim digital future lay ahead. I have, over the past 24 years of working professionally in media, had to shut down at least a dozen magazines, lay off great staff, and retire sometimes venerable brands that were no longer viable businesses. When market winds change, businesses have to proactively adjust, no matter how painful the moves may seem.
Thankfully, I’ve also experienced the joy of launching new businesses, hiring great staff, investing in expansion to take advantage of new opportunities, and creating things that customers didn’t realize they couldn’t live without. Even in a challenging market, innovation can create new opportunities for businesses that may not have been previously apparent.
Today, even, in a media market that is merciless, we’ve found a way to not just survive but thrive. We’ve been able to make moves to take care of our staff, such as paying 100 percent of their health insurance premiums while increasing benefits and wages. All of this in a market environment that is “challenged.”
Long-term winners and losers aren’t made in bull markets; they’re established in the harshest and most challenging conditions. It was Prohibition that ultimately made Anheuser-Busch the company that it is today—when conditions got difficult (and it really doesn’t get more difficult than the government outlawing the product you make), they pivoted and found a way to survive. As a result, when Prohibition was repealed, they were in the perfect position to quickly capitalize. Surviving hard times is the measure of great businesses.
It’s easy to blame increased competition for slowed growth or volume/revenue pullbacks, but smart brewery business people will look at today’s market for what it really is—an opportunity, if navigated correctly. We hope this magazine helps you chart that successful path, no matter what success looks like, because we made it for you.