Craft. It’s everywhere: from the local bar, restaurant, grocer, taproom to social media like Pinterest, Snapchat, and Instagram. A descriptor used for beer, food, snacks, sweets, desserts and — oh yes, cocktails, mixers and more — craft is not just a word. It’s a movement. Whether handcrafted, artisan, homemade or otherwise, consumers are drawn to craft food and beverages. Let’s take a look at where the craft movement has been, and where it’s taking us next.
noun ’kraft: an activity that involves making something in a skillful way by using your hands; a job or activity that requires special skill
The word “craft,” as it pertains to food, is hard to pin down. There are definite differences and interpretations of the word between and among consumer, manufacturers and industry. Does craft mean being completely independent from large scale producers, is it the volume produced, ingredients used or even a unique flavor descriptor?
A great place to start in getting to a definition of craft is actually the beer category. The definition for the craft brewer in the U.S. is, “small, independent and traditional” along with producing less than 6,000 barrels of beer annually. Remember when small, local brewers used to be called microbrewers? Coined by the New York Times in a 1983 article on a Seattle brewer, the term micro-brewery was born and became a business end goal for the small-scale brewer.1 About two years later, Vince Cottone, a local beer writer for the Seattle Post-Intelligencer, referred to micro-breweries and their output as “craft breweries” and “craft beer.” That’s when the term craft was married to beer.
“I use the term craft brewery to describe a small brewery using traditional methods and ingredients to produce a handcrafted, uncompromised beer that is marketed locally,” states Cottone.
Using our knowledge of today’s consumer and blending it with Mr. Cottone’s original idea, we crafted a definition of craft that applies to both beverages and food alike:
Craft food or beverage: a producer who uses traditional methods and ingredients to create a handcrafted product and has a connection and understanding of the end consumer.
Craft food and drink manufacturers must be fully connected to the consumer. Millennials especially are drawn to the manufacturer with a great brand story and often serve as brand ambassadors, spreading the word about their favorite companies. A successful craft producer typically has a strong social media presence and depends on e-commerce sometimes as the sole business model.
A dedication to ingredient sourcing and presenting a clean label also are often seen with the craft food and beverage manufacturer as is the commitment to routinely communicating with and understanding their consumers.
Craft Beer: Worth $20.4 billion in 2014, the U.S. craft beer market is approximately 24% of the entire U.S. beer market and is expected to reach $36.3 billion by 2019.5 With the U.S. driving the market for the past 20 years or so, there are now over 3,000 craft brewers in the United States. Europe is catching up while China has approximately 1,000 craft brewers.6 The U.S. also is setting the example in global innovation especially when it comes to the flagship IPAs that the country is known for.
Flavors have also been integral to the success with pumpkin, citrus, coffee, chocolate and honey tempting all types of consumers. In addition, the apple based ciders have become fan favorites for those seeking a lighter experience. Despite only being 1% of the size of the U. S beer market, cider sales are skyrocketing at a higher rate than craft beer given its gluten-free claim and sweetness profile.7
• Genesee Brew House Pilot Batch Salted Caramel Chocolate Porter is described as an elegant English-style porter, seductively complex with rich caramel aroma and flavors, balanced by a dark chocolate bittersweet finish.
• Erie Brewing Company Final Destination India Pale Ale is described as a dangerously flavorful West coast style IPA brewed with citra and simcoe hops. It possesses powerfully sapid hop flavors with passion fruit aromas and hints of citrus and grapefruit.
• Rogue Fruit Salad Cider is said to be inspired by Oregon’s rich fruit bounty. It is packed with cherries and plums grown on the company’s own farm in Tygh Valley, Oregon. It also contains apples, pears, marionberries, peaches and apricots grown on rich Oregon soil.
The spirit segment has become very craft-friendly over the past 8 years or so. While dominated by large-scale manufacturers, the liquor store has recently been inundated with craft bottles of vodka, gin, whiskey, and tequila. Plus, don’t forget about handcrafted bitters, shrubs and mixers created to accompany the spirits.
With 18% of spirit launches claiming “craft” and the number of craft distilleries in the U.S. greater than 600, it’s safe to say that consumers will have ample choices for their next cocktail. Just like the craft beer segment, the U.S. is setting the pace for the rest of the world which has only experienced craft representing 7% of spirit launches.8
• Deep Eddy Peach Flavored Vodka is handcrafted in small batches. It is made from real peach juice and mixed with 10 times distilled and naturally gluten free vodka.
• Dash Texas Handmade Vodka is 100% neutral spirit distilled from wheat and raisins and handcrafted in the United States from an age-old distilling tradition using the finest quality wheat. It traces its pure essence to sun roasted Thompson raisins.
Craft is bubbling over into the soda market, too. Consumers are sipping handcrafted natural sodas at their favorite coffee shop or QSR, like with Starbucks’ Fizzio line or Sonic’s Soda Pop Shoppe featuring multi-flavored cream sodas. Despite the interest craft brings to the category as a whole, 40% of consumers believe that craft and natural sodas are too high in calories or are too expensive, presenting challenges for the category.9
• Dr. Pepper Naturally Sweetened Carbonated Soft Drink has been added to the range. This soft drink is naturally sweetened with stevia leaf extract and real sugar, is free from artificial sweeteners and features less than half the calories of regular Dr. Pepper.
• Sip Natural Craft Soda: A blend of seltzer and natural flavors like Rosemary Lime and Lavender Lemon peel, Sip blends its love for healthy herbs and barely sweet flavors that can be enjoyed on their own or mixed with alcoholic beverages for a refreshing cocktail.
Small batch purveyors of craft condiments, salsas and sauces have been spreading their personal brand of flavor for years. These days, handcrafted, craft or artisan monikers attached to their label are making the difference. From pizza sauce to mustards and salsas, consumers like provenance and fresh ingredients when it comes to their craft condiments.
The U.S. condiment market has struggled in the recent past, especially between 2009-2014, but a few brands have managed to break through. Millennials and affluent Americans are target groups for these brands as Southside Salsa has learned. Dubbing itself the “original craft salsa brand,” Southside Salsa has had success with their Hot Blonde Medium Craft Salsa which features a blonde lager in the recipe. One of the bright (and hot) spots in the condiment market is hot sauces. Whether it’s the sriracha effect or Millennials’ affinity for excessive heat, spicy pepper sauces are blowing up the category.
Many brands in the category employ the same marketing strategies as craft beers: engaging the customer through social media to generate an almost cult-like buzz and word of mouth advertising. Take for example, Victoria Armory. Part lifestyle brand, part condiment and snack venture, Victoria Armory was raised in Madrid but began her business in 2012 from her kitchen making sauces for a school fundraiser in Miami, Florida. After selling 200 jars in 10 minutes, Victoria Armory & Co. was on its way, selling Green Chili Peri Peri, and Almond & Garlic Romesco sauces along with rosemary and parsley flatbreads and more. Committed to educating consumers through her blog and social media about effortless entertaining, Armory has crafted a whole new life and business.
• Southside Salsa Co. Rahr & Sons Hot Blonde Medium Craft salsa comprises Rahr’s Blond Lager with fire roasted yellow bell peppers.
• Oolala Red Fig Confit Chutney is now available. The product is said to be a traditional French confit, and suggested to be enjoyed with the favorite cheese, meat, fish, or just by itself on a favorite savory cracker, snack or artisan bread.
• Victoria Sur la Table Chianti Marinara Pasta Sauce is now available. The kosher certified product is slow simmered in small batches, and is made with 100% Italian tomatoes from Chianti, imported olive oil, Chianti wine, fresh garlic, basil and onion, sea salt, and tradition spices
Salty snacks and beer are lifelong companions, so it’s no wonder that the snack category has capitalized on the success and tenets of the craft beer industry. Like in craft beer, snack companies are working to build relationships with their consumers through social media, and share ingredient sources. Alternative carbohydrate, ancient grains, premium and protein-rich ingredients are used to help the health-conscious consumer reach their goals in addition to the non-GMO ingredients and natural flavors all of which are helping the snack category become much more than potato chips and pretzels. Often featuring veggie based, coconut or free-range proteins, the snack category is primed to become even “craftier.”
• Rhythm Superfoods Smoky Bacon Roasted Kale is comprised of fresh organic Lacinato kale, which is triple-washed and then roasted in a delicate oil and seasoned to perfection resulting in a satisfying crunch with homemade taste. It is high in vitamins A, K and C.
• Think Jerky is created by famous chefs including Chicago’s Gale Gand and Matt Noost, Food Network host and farm to table expert who are committed to developing a healthy snack that has the nutritional profile to back it up. Free range turkey and non-GMO ingredients that are gluten-free and paleo friendly are 100 calorie packs in flavors like sriracha honey, sweet chili and Thanksgiving.
Chocolatiers are the sweetest kind of craftsmen (and women) and their products are works of art that consumers savor bite by bite. And in the craft movement, if chocolate is king, the cacao bean is the
mothership. Roasting, grinding and tempering is the process that transforms the raw cacao beans into bars and eventually onto grocer’s shelves. In 1997, Scharffen Berger was the first bean to bar chocolate maker in the U.S. The passion to create true handcrafted chocolate slowly spread. And today, there are only a few dozen U.S. producers.
• Sir Charles Pop Stoppers Dark Chocolate Coated Puffs are hand-crafted chocolate coated puffs that are made with sea salt and dark chocolate
• Ethereal Confections (Woodstock, Illinois) 80% Ecuador Single Origin has notes of banana, walnut and toffee.
Finally, we wanted to touch upon what is happening in craft food and beverage across the globe. Globally craft beer represents 21% of innovation and more countries are getting involved into the market.16 In Italy, brewers are weaving traditional winemaking techniques into the creation of craft beer like the brand D’Uva, which blends the must from the Freisa grape to add a sweet note and tannins. Another category experiencing strong growth in Europe is nut butters and spreads. The nut spreads segment has seen almost twice the amount of product launches between 2013-15 up to 13% from 6%.17
As more and more craft food and beverage products are created and small companies become engulfed by big ones, the need to define terms like craft and artisan becomes pressing. While the U.S. arguably is the birthplace of craft beer, the country hasn’t developed specific parameters that define any terms related to craft food and beverages, some of which has previously been discussed. However, in Ireland, the Food Safety Authority set about defining marketing terms that will help guide the consumer’s understanding of these claims:18
Artisan: Food must meet all of the following criteria: food is made in limited quantities by skilled craftspeople; the processing method is not full mechanized and follows a traditional method; made in a micro-enterprise at a single location; and ingredients used in the food are grown or produced locally where seasonally available and practical.
Traditional: Must meet at least one of the following criteria: the food is made to an authentic recipe which can be proved to have existed without significant modification for at least 30 years or does not deviate substantially from the traditional food processing method associated with a certain type of food.
As Ireland sets the example, will we see the rest of the world follow?
Knee-deep in a new craft food or beverage project or just in the early phases? FONA’s technical team can help develop your application with our natural flavors and consumer insights. Ready for your brand’s story to start with a happy consumer?
CONTACT OUR SALES SERVICE DEPARTMENT at 630.578.8600 to request a flavor sample or visit www.fona.com.
Sources: Food Republic, Mintel Reports, BeverageDaily.com, Mintel GNPD, Eater.com, Pastemagazine.com