Beer Innovations In 2014

From new digital platforms to an ale that apparently helps you get fit, Crowd DNA's knowledge leader in innovation, Aurelie Jamard, cracks open a selection of new ideas in beer from 2014...

Yes, we’ve decided to talk about beer at a time when Coke is tentatively trying to launch lactose-free milk (not without a few hurdles…), and when everyone’s stocking up on mulled wine and bubbly for the festive season. But we’ve seen some interesting moves in the category this year and we’d like to review some trends that are influencing innovations and will undoubtedly keep doing so in 2015.

2014 was the year that really highlighted the decline of Millennials’ interest in beer to the advantage of wine and spirits (and, worse, healthy drinks!). This generation of consumers, better educated and more socially active than ever, turned to more sophisticated drinks but also demanded more transparency and authenticity from brands in the category. The trends and innovations below attempt to sum up some of the most significant changes that happened to the industry in the past months.

Crafty, authentic, local

Craft beers have of course been the massive hit of 2014. Consumers in search of authenticity, quality and locality have united to support small breweries and discover new draughts. Most recently, Diageo launched two new craft versions of its Guinness beer, and the BeerBods platform went live after reaching its Crowdcube goal of £155,000 in 36 hours. The aim of the platform? To enable its members to discover different craft beers at their leisure, for a quarterly fee of £36.

Women drinkers as the new target

2014 has been a year of strong female centric campaigns, such as Always’ #LikeAGirl and the UN’s Emma Watson-supported HeForShe initiative. And the link with beer? 2014 has seen SAB Miller pledge to change the image of beer by launching products designed to appeal to female drinkers. The popularity of new beer products across the category, such as Radlers and fruit ciders, is another manifestation of this trend and has helped foster a move towards less male dominated innovations.

New luxury for Millennials

In one of our Crowd DNA events this year we talked about new interpretations of luxury among youth. It’s a revised definition that spans across categories and has raised challenges in some quarters. But it’s definitely had an impact on the beer industry in 2014. Initiatives like House Of Peroni have contributed to raising the profile of the Italian premium beer among affluent, young UK consumers. Another interesting move came from MillerCoors: the company created a new beer with stronger alcohol content called Miller Fortune, designed to attract Millennials whose preference has been for spirits lately. With its biggest launch in six years, the brand also contributed to fuelling the new, fast growing and high margin “above premium” beer category.

So despite a growing trend for the consumption of healthy products, the beer industry is starting to adapt, which promises an exciting year of innovations ahead. But the focus on healthy drinks isn’t something that the category has to miss out on altogether. Canadian company VAMPT Brands recently launched its Lean Machine Ale – packed with antioxidants and electrolytes, making it the first fitness-enhancing beer, it’s ideal for bodies in recovery mode after a session at the gym.

And the other way round works, too. It looks like soft drinks are following in the footsteps of the beer industry, with Pepsi launching its ‘craft soda’ called Caleb’s Kola in some test states in the US. So what kind of innovations can we expect in the beer industry in 2015? Drop me a line if you want to find out more. Over a beer or otherwise, we’d love to discuss these with you.