The Business Herald’s markets and banking reporter.

Party time - NZ craft beer's $100m boom

Luke Nicholas, founder of the Epic Brewing Company, which is seeing strong sales growth in China.
Luke Nicholas, founder of the Epic Brewing Company, which is seeing strong sales growth in China.

New Zealand's craft beer market is showing plenty of fizz, with sales surging 35 per cent over the past year to more than $100 million, new research shows.

ANZ's New Zealand Craft Beer Industry Insights report, released today, reveals craft brands now account for 15 per cent of the total beer market, up from 9 per cent three years ago.

"Demand is rising thanks to enthusiastic and increasingly discerning consumers at home and growing international interest, resulting in diverse opportunities across the industry," said ANZ agribusiness manager John Bennett.

The 168 craft breweries operating across the country are producing more than 1500 unique brews, the report says.

In order to support the industry's growth, ANZ is forecasting a 200 ha increase in land used for hop production over the next three years.

In the report, Geoff Ross, chief executive of NZX-listed craft brewer Moa Group, said there was potential for New Zealand craft brewers to keep growing to the point where they account for 30 per cent of the market.

"We have the beers to get us there," he said.

The report also found intense competition at home was prompting a growing number of brewers to take up exporting.

There are 49 export markets for New Zealand beer.

"Data now shows that exports of higher alcohol beers - typical of craft styles - have grown from $1 million five years ago to $4.5 million last year," the report said.

Total beer exports in 2015 reached $37.4 million.


 Beer
 
Sources: Statistics NZ, NZ Customs, ANZ; Brewer's Guild of NZ; The Beer Cellar,   Brewed:  A guide to the craft beer of New Zealand, Jules Van Cruysen

One local brewer experiencing export success is the Auckland-based Epic Brewing Company, which sells its products in the United States, Europe and Asia.

Epic founder Luke Nicholas said in the report that the firm's sales in China were going from "strength-to-strength".

"I'm visiting the market for a second time this year and visiting six more cities," Nicholas said.

But Bennett said it's not "all beer and skittles" in the growing craft industry.

"Increasing competition comes with challenges," Bennett said.

"[Retail] shelf space is limited, as are resources such as staff, manufacturing capacity, some key ingredients and working capital."

The report noted that retail price points were putting pressure on some brewers, with "sweet spots" emerging around $6.99 for a single 500ml bottle and $19.99 for a six-pack of 330ml bottles.

Such prices were "challengingly low" for artisan producers.

Competition for shelf space was another hurdle facing brewers.

"Retailers mention loyalty [from consumers] to a style rather than a brand," the report said.

"The fastest moving style by some distance is pale ale ... accounting for as much as 65 per cent of all New Zealand craft sales."

Bennett said large and small brewers alike were being confronted by a lack of scale, but solutions were emerging.

"For some, it means developing business capabilities to attract investment to build plant," he said.

"Others are turning to licence or toll-brewing for consistent quality and known production costs, allowing the brewer to concentrate on product development and marketing."

ANZ's research was released ahead of Wellington's Beervana festival, which kicks off on Friday.

- NZ Herald

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