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The rise of craft

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Walk through the aisles of a supermarket or High Street store and at first glance you might be forgiven for thinking that not much has changed; the same global brands dominating most categories. But look closer and you see they are being challenged more and more by small independent brands; a trend that looks set to continue.

Craft & independent brands that used to be restricted to specialist independents, online channels and perhaps department stores are finding a foothold in volume retail, driving unprecedented choice in our mainstream stores.

What’s driving this?

More savvy consumers, especially millennials, are leading the charge; willing to spend more on products that offer quality and a point of difference from manufacturers who can show they maintain strong ethical & environmental qualities. Faceless corporates aren’t cutting it for millennials or many other consumers, and that demand for greater choice from smaller, niche suppliers is growing.

Nowhere can the move be seen more clearly that in the beer market. Global producers such as Anheuser-Busch Inbev, Heineken & Carlsberg long dominated UK retail with their global brands such as Budweiser, Corona, Stella Artois & Amstel. But over the past seven or so years we have seen nothing short of a revolution in the beer aisle. Sales of these mass- produced brands have dropped significantly, as has the retails space allocated to them. In its place you will find punchy, unique and highly flavoursome craft beers, sourced from largely independent suppliers, ranging from tiny to not-so-tiny. Brew Dog often gain credit for leading the push to put better beer in the mainstream; in my eyes rightly so.

And maybe they are a good example of what the craft or specialist tag is. Now valued at over £1 billion they are hardly a small specialist producer anymore, but I’m sure they will argue it is all about the product and company values; produce an exceptional high-quality product, be clear on what you stand for and never compromising on those values.

And slowly but surely we are seeing this replicated across the retail market. Tech savvy, market aware consumers are searching for products that meet their value criteria, and more and more these are fulfilled by smaller, niche and craft manufacturers who are able to let the products and their values speak for themselves.

The challenge that remains for many of these producers is getting these product offers in front of buyers and retailers. That is becoming easier as organisations such as Product Guru utilise technology to allow buyers access to these products, allowing them to cut through the volume of non-relevant submissions they receive and focus in on the products that meet their customers more and more demanding criteria.  

The playing field is getting more and more level every day. Long may it continue.