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This article was published in The FMCG and Hospitality Business Magazines 2019 Leaders forum

2018 was an interesting year for beer in New Zealand. We continued to see changes in how people consume beer, with a greater focus on value over volume. A desire from consumers to be aware of their overall wellness. As well as the changing nature of how different age groups drink alcohol in general.

According to the NZ health Survey by Ministry of health, about four in five adults (78.7%) consumed alcohol in the 2017/18 year. Down from 79.3% in the 2016/17 year and overall down from 83.6% in 2006/7 (-4.9%).

However total sales value has remained relatively consistent in this time. This reinforces the desire from consumers to focus on the higher value products. For beer this will often equate to the premium and craft categories. This trend is likely to continue in 2019.

Along with craft, the low and no alcohol categories have seen continued growth. At around 13% per annum since 2016. With the introduction of some big players in the 0% space, this category is set to see greater interest in 2019.

When it comes to Craft, the Pale Ale is still king, with half of all craft beer sales in 2018 being Pale Ales or IPA’s from supermarkets and traditional liquor retailing. In 2019 this will continue or even advance with the increase in Hazy or New England Style IPA’s available and becoming more mainstream.

Some other considerations for brewers in the coming year and to the future of the industry are around the sustainability of the product. Recent research out of the USA highlighted most beer consumers are willing to pay a premium for ‘sustainable beer’. It showed consumers who already pay for higher-end products are more aware of their buying behaviour and how their consumption patterns effect the environment. So as consumers demand more ethically produced products, brewers should look to what inroads they can make into creating energy and water efficiencies in their production.

If 2018 was anything to go by, 2019 will be a positive year for beer. Greater varietal choice, more quality low alcohol options and the continuation of innovation from a passionate bunch of people who make up this sector.