As you may know, the beverage alcohol industry is doing quite well. The direct-to-consumer wine industry had a record-breaking year, ciders are increasing in popularity, and the craft beer industry is absolutely booming. In addition to this growth in volume, there has been an overwhelming amount of product diversity within the industry, specifically when we talk about craft beer.
What is product diversity, you ask?
Product diversity refers to that Gluten-Free, Cherry-Infused, Session IPA beer your local brewer just came out with. We have seen an explosion of new, unique beers like this over the past ten years, and it’s been incredible to watch. It’s clear that the increase in beer diversity is linked to the rise of craft brewers, and neither variables seem to be slowing.
This jump in product diversity raises some questions, which we are setting out to answer in our exploration of beer industry trends. We want to find the answers to questions like:
- Just how much has beer diversity increased?
- What kind of descriptions and keywords are becoming more popular?
- How difficult is it to launch a new beer?
- How does the craft brew industry growth compare to the direct-to-consumer wine industry growth?
How will we answer these questions?
The best insight into product diversity in the beer sector comes from the Alcohol Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau’s (TTB) Certificate of Label Approval (COLA) database. TTB requires most alcoholic products sold in the United States to obtain a Certificate of Label Approval (COLA) based on a COLA application form submitted by the beverage alcohol supplier. Together, these application forms result in an incredible amount of data that is available to the public.
LabelVision allows users to search the TTB COLA database quickly and accurately for nearly any information that shows up on a COLA application. It also uses Optical Character Recognition (OCR) technology that allows users to search for words that are visible on the label, but not included in the COLA application.
Not only does this tool let you have a little fun, it also enables the industry to understand trends and explore how producers are naming and positioning their products.
Show me the data.
Not surprisingly, there has been a huge increase in the beer products registered with TTB. As the chart below shows, between 2005 and 2014, the number of beer products for sale in the United States has increased by 275%. But in more concrete terms, TTB approved 17,712 beer labels in 2014, compared to only 4,713 in 2005.
As you see in 2012 and 2013, the increased pace of label approvals slowed. In October 2013, the government shutdown resulted in a decrease of total label submissions, which resulted in a backlog for the TTB in 2014. The change of pace is also likely due to a result of new guidelines the TTB released mid-2012.
These new guidelines increased the type of design revisions that were allowed on already-approved labels, which means that fewer applications needed to be submitted. (Want to learn more about allowable revisions? Check out our previous post.)
The purpose of this post, and future beer explorative posts, is to provide you with insight into what’s really happening in the industry. We know people are making more beer. But what kind of beer are they making? How is it affecting how long it takes for a label to be approved? Keep your eyes open for more posts that will answer these questions, and more.
Competition is fierce out there, so use this data, and tools like LabelVision, to see what other companies are producing. Have questions about the beer industry? Let us know. You can post comments or join our Beverage Alcohol Community (BAC), a free platform for experts and industry members to share best practices.