Why would the Heineken group, which in Spain invoices more than 1,000 million, in an SME with sales of just 800,000 euros? The truth is that he has done something more than that. This week he announced the purchase of 51% of La Cibeles, one of the most important craft breweries in Madrid. "Our growth strategy is based on innovation and the development of a growing beer culture. We grow from within, we are aware of the interest that craft beer awakens in the consumer and of its capacity to generate experiences of great value for this, for years that our company began to work in the field of craft [artesanas]", Assured a spokesman.
Like the Holy Grail, the big companies have long pursued a market in effervescence ... which, however, does not represent more than 1% of total beer sales in the country. Last year, according to a study by Informa DBK, the 511 artisan firms billed 47 million and produced 170,000 hectoliters. Its turnover grew by 31%, yes, but they are a drop in the 37.6 million hectoliters produced by the sector as a whole, which invoices around 4,800 million. And yet, this microworld of hops and barley makes more and more noise. Last year the giant Molson Coors took the Toledo La Sagra beer; the world leader AB InBev bought, for its part, La Virgen, and Mahou has two US-owned craft (Founders and Avery Brewing), as well as 40% of the Spanish family brewer Nómada Brewing.
Far away are those words uttered a few years ago by the president of Damm, Demetrio Carceller, when he feared that those beers made "in garages" they were to cause "some quality failure" that ended up indigestando to some consumer and affecting the rest of brands. "All the factories have their sanitary registry, everything is regulated. We have done a great job of accreditation and training, although in this last aspect there is work to be done. We can not provoke anything in the consumer, regardless of whether our beer likes it or not, "replies Javier Donate, president of the Spanish Association of Independent Craft Brewers.
In Europe, artisans tread hard: in the United Kingdom there are 2,368 processors; in France more than 1,000, in Germany 824. "It is a phenomenon that I hope has come to stay. It has a large content in innovation and does not think in the short term, companies are committed to creating value, for local employment. They are fostering a lot of entrepreneurship, "says Jacobo Olalla, general director of Brewers of Spain.
To explain this growing interest, Javier Donate talks about the fact that the craft world constantly generates news. "We are many but very small, with a lot of imagination. We do not even reach the nail of any industry ... it's like comparing a neighborhood store with a large area. But we grow, and our work causes people to ask, to be interested in beer. "
That is one of the values pursued by the giants. Benet Fité, general manager of the New Business unit of Mahou San Miguel, acknowledges that several years ago they detected that the trend was going to sink in Spain. "We adapted and we were pioneers in this sense". They continue promoting initiatives to spread craft culture, such as the Brewhub center in Córdoba, a space where masters of the field share knowledge and can make their own products. "In Spain we are at a very incipient level. In the United States, this segment represents 24% of the market value, and we have five years of real start-up and we have not even reached 1%. It is important to be there for this to grow, to be a category. " It is a bet for the future that, they say, will continue to support.
Although his weight is extremely small, from his Nielsen analyst Celia Rodriguez expresses with the same enthusiasm. "Quantitatively it does not matter, but it is true that it is helping them. It's a very dynamic market thanks in part to artisanal products, something the big ones are taking advantage of ". This year the value of beer sales in the supermarket grew by 3% (1,027 million in the first three quarters), "and it does so thanks to this mix of beers with a lot of volume and other more expensive and artisanal beers".
Thanks to the artisans, in a sector as mature as the beer are appearing other moments of consumption where two or three euros are paid for a bottle in the supermarket. "63% of the increase in prices comes from more expensive brands. Although they are not a great competition for the big brewers, they are helping to boost the market, "insists Rodríguez.
Limits to growth
But as Mafalda said, there is a limit to infinity. Each month of this year, 11 new brands were launched on average. In the sector, they think that it responds to a tendency to consume products with higher added value mixed with this "zero kilometer" power supply. When will it stabilize? "We do not know, but the opportunity is there. Companies know that the important thing is not to sell more liters, it is to invoice more. And that billing is now very seasonal in the summer. The craft world may be able to change that by creating new moments of consumption, such as at parties or dinners with friends, "they believe in Nielsen.
Donate reflects on what has happened in recent years. "The good and the bad is that we are going very fast. Three years ago I would tell you that we were far behind, today we are at a quality level with the rest of Europe, although in production always below the United States. We have run a lot these years, everything has been improved. What penalizes us a lot is the structural costs, because, although we are very small, we comply with the regulations of the big ones ". And their margin is not small, but they are not installed in the luxury segment either. "If we look at the history, we keep at affordable prices, there is not a big difference with the industrial world, although we are always above".