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It’s not easy being big

The challenges Big Craft™ faces are not unique to beer.

Yesterday the Wall Street Journal published a story headlined “Big-Name Food Brands Lose Battle of the Grocery Aisle.” Pretty straightforward premise.

America’s packaged-food giants are losing the battle for retailers’ shelf space, complicating their efforts to break out of a yearslong slump.

Instead of promoting canned soup, cereal and cookies from companies like Kraft Heinz Co., Kellogg Co. and Mondelez International Inc., grocery stores are choosing to give better play to fresh food, prepared hot meals, and items from local upstarts more in favor with increasingly health-conscious consumers.

“We’ve got to maximize return on our shelf space,” said Don Fitzgerald, vice president of merchandising at Mariano’s, a Chicago grocery chain bought by Kroger Co. in 2015. Shoppers, he said, are drawn to steamy pasta at the store’s deli counter, rather than a box of dried macaroni with powdered cheese sitting on the shelf for weeks.

This follows a report last February about how larger companies are looking to smaller ones for, as the headline (“Big Food Looks to Startups for Ideas, Innovation”) suggests, news ideas.

Food giants are starting venture-capital funds to invest in startups focused on healthier and less-processed foods, betting the younger companies can teach them to be more entrepreneurial and innovative. Slow to recognize consumers’ shift toward those products, global titans have found themselves stuck in a rut. This week, Nestlé SA, the world’s largest packaged-food company, dropped its long-running sales-growth target for the next three years, saying it needs time to adapt to these fundamental changes in the industry.

“It’s hard for consumer companies to step out of what they’ve been locked into for 60 or 80 years,” said Ryan Caldbeck, founder and chief executive of CircleUp, a business that connects private-equity firms with food startups. CircleUp says large consumer-goods companies lost $18 billion in market share to smaller competitors between 2011 and 2015.

This might belong in the mix as well: “Hard times for Whole Foods: ‘People say it’s for pretentious people. I can see why'” It seems that eventually price matters even for authentic, or great, or “exquisitely selected” products.


ENDNOTE: When using the term Big Craft™ be sure to honor the the trademark — at least as long as Big Craft™ is relevant.

Beer links, musing 05.01.17: Blue collars & beer

Vinnie Cilurzo, Sam Calagione

Beer and Blue Collar Cities.
A scholar somewhere is probably getting close to publishing a related thesis. The premise of “working cities” is tricky, because weren’t all metropolises working cities when they were born? I’m not sure I ever thought of Chicago as a glamorous city (or to lean on Carl Sandburg: Hog Butcher for the World/Tool Maker, Stacker of Wheat/Player with Railroads and the Nation’s Freight Handler/Stormy, husky, brawling/City of the Big Shoulders) but the yuppie/hipster and beer question question Jeff Alworth poses continues to be provocative.

In 1985, Philadelelphia Inquirer food editor Gerry Etter wrote, “Today, beer is invited everywhere. It hobnobs with vintage wines and attends formal parties, it slides effervescently into crystal glasses held by long-gowned hostesses.” This caused another writer for the Inquirer to counter, “I’ve never hobnobbed in my life (and if I did, it was only once and with a consulting adult), and I don’t intend to start now. One doesn’t hobnob while drinking beer, one shoots the bull.” Thirty years later this has not been resolved.

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The Session #123: CyberBrew

The SessionHost Josh Weikert has announced the topic for the 123rd gathering of The Session will be CyberBrew – Is the Internet Helping or Hurting Craft Beer?

Ocassionally somebody will point out that these days a growing number of consumers never suffered through a time they couldn’t order flavorful beer. And, of course, the internet has always been a part of their lives. This leads to Weikert’s basic question: How is beer drinking/brewing different in the internet age, and how is the internet changing the way brewers and craft beer drinkers do business?

He suggests several, optional of course, topics:

– Marketing beer in the internet age
– The astounding influence of beer bloggers to make or break breweries (just kidding, but seriously, what’s the effect of all of this quasi-journalistic beer commentary on the drinking and brewing public?)
– How are beer reviews (expert and mass-market) affecting what gets brewed and drank?
– Are beer apps for tracking and rating overly-“gamifying” beer (or does that make drinkers more adventurous)?
– Just how fast do aleholes on message boards and elsewhere turn off prospective craft beer enthusiasts?

Post a Session contribution May 5 and leave a comment to be included in the post-Session roundup.

Beer links, musing 04.17.17: Categories vs. appellations

What's the next beer style on the rise? CBC 2017Monday musing and linking began in 2008 as a way to stay in touch during our semi sabbatical, but there hae often times I am not sure what reality I am in touch with. So rather than force the issue, next Monday there will be no links because I will be in Brazil. And I understand that because most of this week’s links were collected while I was in the midst of the rather insular experience of the Craft Brewers Conference they might look different in bright sunlight.

Gonzofest literary contest winner: The Great American Smoker.
Larry Bell said Monday he’s not sure when he last missed a Chicago Cubs’ home opener (which was Monday), but he thought it was important to be at CBC even though the company hums along fine with a minimum of intervention on his part. There are a lot more parties at CBC (and the Great American Beer Festival) these days, bigger, sometimes more lavish, more everything. Well, maybe not more fun. [Via Leo Weekly]

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Monday beer links: ‘Nonsense; unrelenting nonsense’


FRESHNESS: Can we stop?
“Except it is nonsense; unrelenting nonsense. Suddenly we’re drinking beers unprepared, unconditioned and unfit for consumption. And we’re lapping it up; exclaiming the virtues of de-malted hop water as if the Ancient Babylonians had it wrong from the beginning. It is as though beer only needed one added ingredient aside from water – those green leafy cones – and that the fermentation stage was never an added necessity. Alcoholic leaves became the future of beer; as if yellow bananas were now no good and the bitter skin tasting unripened green variety were preferable.” [Via Beer Compurgation]

In Praise of Budweiser.
This is not click bait. “I didn’t want to be challenged, I didn’t want to prove my craft credentials and feel worthy of drinking a beer, I didn’t want to wrap my head round a muddle of flavours and aromas that may or may not have been intentional. I wanted a lager that was expertly brewed, technically solid, and through which quality brewing science shone, and this was that beer in that moment.” [Via Fuggled]

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