Boutique beer breweries staging crafty supermarket shelf takeover

Last updated 22:15 04/07/2013

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As if to confirm the rampant success of the country's booming boutique brewing scene, reports coming out of supermarkets and liquor chains say craft beer is occupying an increasing amount of shelf space.

Foodstuffs, which owns New World, says it has seen steady growth at stores, with craft beer representing just over 13 per cent of total beer sales over the last 12 months, up from 9 per cent two years ago.

At Countdown, craft beer now accounts for about 10 per cent of its total beer sales, and that figure is growing.

While the figures are open to debate depending on the definition of craft beer - whether it is made by a major or boutique brewery - they certainly suggest the industry is growing in popularity.

"In the past few years we have seen a steady increase in the popularity of craft beer in our supermarkets," said Foodstuffs spokeswoman Katherine Klouwens.

"While the beer category has seen an overall slowdown, craft-beer sales is one segment which is showing growth."

But a closer look shows that craft beer is not only pushing out its mainstream rivals in urban areas such as Wellington and Auckland, but also in rural areas.

LiquorLand chief executive Rod Gibson said while sales were still quite fragmented outside the cities, there were a number of rural stores where the customer preference was turning to craft.

Kieran Haslett-Moore, beer writer and resident ale monger at Regional Wines & Spirits in Wellington, said it was not surprising.

"It's like with the rise of wine or better coffee, it starts off in the cosmopolitan centres but the wave soon carries."

That is backed up by a recent survey by Roy Morgan Research which found that although more than half of Kiwi beer-drinkers said they liked Tui's "yeah right" advertising campaign, fewer than one in three said the beer had a great taste.

Reese Drake, a divisional manager at New World Thorndon, said one driver appears to be the flexibility of craft beer, with drinkers able to have it at a fancy dinner or in the back yard with some mates.

Just where the growth would top out was uncertain, but United States retail giant Costco recently reported that craft accounted for 30 per cent of total beer sales, suggesting there was plenty of head room.

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- The Dominion Post

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