Craft Beer: 5% of Sales, 60% of Drinkers

Here is a statistic: craft beer accounts for roughly 5% of the overall beer market (probably double that if you include faux craft and high-end imports). Question: what percentage of beer drinkers drink craft beer? Careful, it's a trick question.

Until earlier this year, I made the same mistake I assume most people do in answering this question. Obviously, only five percent of beer drinkers bother with craft beer. Ah, but market share and market penetration (to deploy a word I don't actually understand) are different things. Behold the findings from the market-research firm Mintel conducted just last December:
Only a modest percentage of beer drinkers (13%) say they prefer domestic craft or microbrew beers (compared to 43% for domestic and 22% for imported), but an impressive 59% say they like to try them, and 51% would try more craft or microbrew beers if they knew more about them. It seems consumer education is the key to cultivating growth in the craft/microbrew market, according to Mintel research.
How is this possible? One problem with the market=population thesis is that it assumes everyone drinks exclusively either macro or micro. But of course, many people drink both. (I was at the Timbers game yesterday with a recent college grad and craft enthusiast who pointed out that in college, he had to drink a lot of swill because that was all he could afford.) Another factor is consumption rate. People buy macros to consume in quantity; micros are more often savored. No doubt other factors are at play, too.

This is yet another reason why I think the trend toward good beer will continue to grow and grow. Steady growth in the next couple decades to an overall market share of 15%-20% isn't inconceivable. The people drinking suitcases of Hamm's will always skew numbers toward macros, putting a ceiling on overall growth. Still, we've reached an important tipping point. Craft beer isn't some obscure thing no one knows about; it's mainstream. Lots of people drink craft beer, and as they learn more about it, they'll drink even more. We're nowhere near the end of growth.