Sam Adams selling is the recent speculation in the beer world due to their stagnant sales performance over the past few years.
Yes, it’s true that Sam Adams has felt the pinch as the surge of smaller, craft breweries have eaten into their sales. It hasn’t been a dramatic downturn but it is noteworthy and it has people wondering if Sam Adams can figure out how to grow their business.
This makes me wonder, what would the selling of Sam Adams mean to craft beer?
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My Initial Thoughts
First things first, beer is business. Regardless of how much passion we have for craft beer, we have to remember that it’s a business. All breweries must find a way to grow or find themselves in trouble.
Sam Adams is happily celebrated as one of the few breweries that helped build the craft beer community. But as the craft beer market has grown, many of us have left Sam Adams behind.
Some even say they are “too big” to be craft and no longer drink their beer.
If many hardcore craft beer fans have turned away from Sam Adams, who is drinking their beer? They need a lot of fans to support them as a company or they risk having to find alternatives. One of which is to sell.
For me, Sam Adams was my gateway brewery and their Cherry Wheat was my gateway beer. They converted me into a craft beer fan. They continually produce great products and I would be deeply saddened if they were bought by a macro brewery.
Globalization and Localization
The world we live in shrinks every day. It is now easier than ever to get information, services, products, etc anywhere in the world from anywhere else in the world.
This globalization means that anyone can compete in just about any market – think amazon. Large companies can feel the impact of small start ups as they use the internet to reach customers almost instantly. So while very few companies can sell globally, the reality is scaling a company can happen quickly in today’s age.
Sam Adams helped spread the word of craft beer but now they have a lot more competitors. And these competitors are small, flexible and aggressive.
And while many of those competitors hope to compete on a regional or national level some day, they know they must start locally. The localization movement is equally strong as consumers are opting to buy local more than in past decades.
This hurts Sam Adams as they are a national brand and do not represent the consumer’s local community.
It’s not easy to overcome these challenges. To compete, Sam Adams must find new ways to reach the customer that buys local while using their national reach and power. It’s a tricky balance.
I’ve always thought that brewpubs in major cities would be a great strategy for a brewery this size but most breweries are not that interested in running a restaurant chain.
So IF They Sell, Would It Be Bad For Craft Beer?
My opinion is Sam Adams selling would be terrible for craft beer.
The craft beer movement has momentum but it hurts every time a brand is sold. And it hurts more than just our emotions. It hurts the rest of the craft breweries.
The more brands that are owned by macro breweries, the less value there is in being a craft brewer because the general public won’t be able to tell them apart.
More or less, every “craft” beer starts to look and feel like Blue Moon. The general consumer doesn’t care who owns the brewery. They want good, easy to acquire beer at a reasonable price.
We need the large craft breweries to help market their beer to the general public as craft beer. Every brewery that has opened in the past few years lacks the ability to market on a national level; nor do they have a reason to.
Craft beer needs Sam Adams, Sierra Nevada, New Belgium, etc to be the leaders that take craft beer from a niche industry into the mainstream.
Your local brewery doesn’t have that ability. Even the large regional breweries fall short of the marketing budget and reach needed to do this.
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What Are The Consequences IF They Sell
So if Sam Adams sells, it will be a huge hit for craft beer.
No, it won’t end craft beer but it will create new issues. Even to the non-beer drinkers, Sam Adams is a recognizable brand. This icon in the beer industry has influence and we need them on our side; not the macro beer side.
Bottom line, there’s only so much beer that will be purchased every year. Moving more of the sales into the craft beer category is crucial to keep your local breweries open; regardless of how big or small they are.
And Sam Adams is the ox that can help pull the entire industry behind them.
Will they sell?
That’s not a question I can answer. I don’t know their financials or business goals. What I do know is large companies must thrive or something must be done.
Sam Adams helped build craft beer and if we loose them I fear that we loose part of the heart of the industry.
I wasn’t a beer drinker before I drank craft beer. And I came to craft through Sam Adams. So they are solely responsible for adding me (and I am sure many others) to the beer market share.
The point is, craft beer grows in two ways; moving people away from non-craft beer and turning non-beer drinkers into beer drinkers.
Sam Adams has the power to do both and on a large scale. If the are owned by a macro brewery, they would use this influence to sell both Sam Adams and their other brands. It would move people closer to non-craft beer.
This is my opinion and all speculation at this time but I think the discussion is important. Craft beer is still maturing and finding where it fits. Knowing who will be there to help drive the growth is very important.
Do You Think Sam Adams Selling Would Hurt The Craft Beer Industry?