There’s A Beer For That’s new strategy is missing the target

There’s a Beer for That describes itself as a cross-industry group of brewers, pub companies and beer organisations working together for the good of beer in Britain. It sounds a good idea but I’ve always had my reservations about the effectiveness of these coming-together groupings.

There is never likely to be a universal consensus when you have disparate members of a group. And this one is certainly diverse with its membership. At one end you have some of the world’s largest brewers – including AB InBev, Heineken and Carlsberg – and at the other extremity you have some of the smallest operators in the UK, which are so tiny I’ve never heard of them.

I’ve no idea what the financial contributions are to the initiative but clearly the big guns will be putting a lot more cash into the coffers than the small fry. As such they should have more of a say about how the body positions itself and where it targets its funds and pitches its activities.

It does not take a brain surgeon to work out that the objectives of the member organisations will be very different. If you caught a senior director at AB InBev off guard after a few too many beers then they would probably admit to preferring that craft brewers did not exist. These upstarts have rocked the boat far too much for the established players.

Yes, there will always be the argument that such a body’s efforts – in this case to raise the tide of beer drinking – will lift all boats if successful. This is certainly laudable and undoubtedly is the key aim of the group. However, I suspect things have changed somewhat judging by the shift in the stance of There’s a Beer For That.

The original focus was on targeting the 18-55-year-old age grouping and enticing them into drinking beer rather than other forms of alcohol. This wide spread of ages would certainly encompass the target audience of every brewer and pub operator in the land – big or small. But this objective has changed and the body has repositioned itself to now go for just the 35-50-year-olds. It has effectively abandoned the 18-34-year old grouping.

Apparently they are simply too difficult to get any messages out to. They instead prefer to drink coffee because it is cheap. They also don’t really have much disposable income. So says a senior party from There’s a Beer For That. I don’t really know where to begin with dismantling these arguments.

For starters, I find coffee pretty expensive – with its gloriously juicy margins for operators – and I don’t think we can really argue that the younger demographic does not have sufficient money to have a good time. This is absolutely not the case in my experience.

And as for the body’s message not hitting home with younger people? I suspect this is because it is probably not the right one. This younger group is not interested in the big brands. We all know that 18-34-year olds find the craft beer brands the most attractive. But to only promote the craftier end of the market would not be a great one for There’s a Beer For That’s key funders.

This is why the body has taken the sensible option to be brand agnostic. It therefore doesn’t promote either camp – neither the big brewers nor the small ones. This all-encompassing approach sounds good in practice but it simply doesn’t work – as proven by the fact the youngsters don’t get it!

Has anybody thought of introducing some segmentation into the process? That way all camps would surely be happy. The cool craft brands could be promoted to the millennials while the big brands could be pushed out to the older consumers. Something tells me that this would not go down very well at all with the big brewers.

Having therefore ditched the 18-34-year-old drinkers (let’s call them the future) There’s a Beer For That has chosen to instead focus on the discerning drinkers in the 35-50 age group who might well have progressed to drinking wine after their earlier beer drinking days. The objective is to get them to switch from drinking their wine and spirits when eating and instead match beers with their food.

The problem here is that most of this grouping will be stuck in their ways and moving back to consuming beer with their meals will be a retrograde step now that they are more into their Merlot and Prosecco. And also, to my knowledge it continues to be a tough challenge to achieve mainstream acceptance of consuming beer with food at the expense of wine.

The real hope for this approach is with the younger age group as they fully understand the concept of matching beers with foods. Unfortunately, they are no longer the target group for There’s a Beer For That. Although I disagree with the organisation’s current strategy I think we both agree that the 18-34-year-olds are the future and so There’s A Beer For That must work out exactly what is the point of the exercise.

Glynn Davis, editor of Beer Insider

This piece was originally published on Propel Info where Glynn Davis writes a regular Friday opinion piece. Beer Insider would like to thank Propel for allowing the reproduction of this column.