The Independent Brewers Association (IBA) is moving into a new phase of its growth and the inaugural Indie Beer Day on 26 October was only the beginning.
The concept for the day was simple: bring together the breweries, venues, and drinkers that support indie beer for a nationwide toast at 2pm (AEDT). It was an amazing demonstration of true community. Hundreds of breweries and venues were joined by thousands of beer drinkers, coming together with purpose and to soak in the collective celebration. That sense of genuine connection is what makes independent beer so special and why I’m so excited for what’s to come.
Indie Beer Day was about building awareness of indie beer, as we in the industry stopped to celebrate our growing role in the wider hospitality landscape, while sharing it with Australian drinkers. It was also a rallying cry to all independent breweries and independent beer retailers to get behind a real shared objective: building a community around Australian independent beer.
At its core, the campaign was simple: gather to toast independent beer. What we learned in the process is that venues around Australia are keen to show their support and put Australian independent brewers front and centre.
Seeing the social media roll in from all corners of Australia over the day was a beautiful real time validation of the hard work that all small and independent brewers put in every day. The day was also featured in major newspapers, TV news, and even had a crew from the BBC attend a Melbourne event to film a segment. It’s great to see the noise we are making is being heard and amplified.
Awareness of Indie Beer has built from a low base in 2017 when the decision was made to rename our association from the Craft Beer Industry Association (CBIA) to the Independent Brewers Association (IBA). In 2018, we rolled out a Certified Independent seal for our members to display on packaging and advertising. The Seal differentiates our members as being Australian-owned and independent and helps us carve out a niche on taps and bottle shop shelves that the customer can identify with and embrace. Now more than 70 per cent of the volume produced by small independent brewers carries the seal. Curious consumers are seeing it more often, and with Indie Beer Day we are hammering home to drinkers what that means.
Indie Beer Day was also a way for us to announce the second phase of the Seal: the launch of the Independent Supporter Seal for supporting venues. The objective of this phase is to step up our efforts in raising awareness and engagement with the industry (brewers and the trade) while driving member and trade supporter recruitment. It is also resulting in the Seal being displayed in new places for consumers to engage with.
Even before this campaign kicked off, we knew awareness around independent beer was growing. As the recent Beer Cartel Survey highlighted awareness is up to 41 per cent, up eight per cent from 32 per cent last year (among craft beer drinkers). However, we know through research conducted earlier this year that familiarity (what it means and why it matters) is low and we know we need to work on building that.
The volume growth numbers that independent brewers are achieving (+25 per cent year on year) underlines that there are a growing number of conscious beer drinkers out there drinking indie beer in greater volumes and they are willing to pay a price premium for it.
The next phase of our program, which will kick in later in the year, will be about building on the familiarity and understanding of indie beer. We are building a brand at a rational and emotional level while creating clarity and greater meaning for the IBA. That takes time, and a consistent and continuous effort. This is just the start.