When quarantine restrictions first swept the nation, many predicted dire consequences for the craft beer industry. A survey conducted by the Brewers Association in April of 2020 found that 45% of small breweries felt threatened with closure within 3 months!
Thankfully, things weren’t nearly that bad. Another Brewers Association report from November of 2020 found no spike in closures compared to 2019, and saw just a 7% to 8% decrease in overall revenue for independent breweries. Small breweries displayed a remarkable ability to pivot their business models amid challenging restrictions. They took advantage of new streams of revenue, while craft drinkers showed a willingness to access beer via other means.
Breweries added local delivery options, embraced curb-side pick-up models, and turned to online retailers like Tavour to reach consumers from coast to coast.
In fact, a survey conducted by Tavour at the beginning of the pandemic showed that breweries expected to move over 40% of their business to online sales! Most didn’t end up going quite that far — a follow up survey in March of 2021 found that breweries actually moved (on average) about 25% of their total business to online channels.
Still, a quarter of total business represents a massive shift in strategy. And for many, a necessary one. Montana’s Imagine Nation Brewing said in the most recent survey, “our relationship with [Tavour] actually helped us grow our business in a time when we would have most likely gone under.” Texas’ 903 Brewers echoed that sentiment, saying, “this time last year we were so scared and leaned heavily on Tavour. They saved a lot of breweries!”
As the pandemic raged, many breweries turned to Tavour to reach new customers and make up for lost taproom sales. More than 125 began offering their beer through the app-based platform for the first time, joining 600+ breweries who already utilized the service. Those new breweries include some highly sought after names like New York’s Other Half, and Tennessee’s Southern Grist.
The survey also showed most breweries foresee online sales continuing to play a large part in their business plans in a post-COVID world. Respondents predict that roughly 20% of their business will remain online over the next 12 months. That’s a significant increase given that many breweries had next to no online sales before 2020.
Some breweries expect much higher — New York’s Evil Twin plans to sell roughly 50% of their beer through online channels, while Energy City Brewing in Illinois is prepared to do a whopping 80% of their business online!
Clearly, the 2020 pandemic has significantly changed the craft beer industry. Some of those changes — specifically an increase in online sales — may continue to play a major role going forward. Others may fade away.
But, if the last tumultuous year has proven anything, it’s that small, independent craft breweries are far more resilient than anyone predicted.