Revitalizing the Beer Industry: Food and Beverage Innovation with New Trends, Flavors, and ELNs
Things aren’t looking so bright for the U.S. beer industry. Despite being the second largest market for alcohol consumption, demographic breakdowns paint a different picture. When it comes to preferring beer over other alcoholic beverages, sales have been flat or slightly declining for older age groups over the past two decades. Doesn’t sound too bad, right? But when we look at the crucial Millennial age demographic, beer preference has dropped from 71% to 41% during that same time frame.1
All hope isn’t lost for food and beverage companies, however. Despite a marked decrease in beer preference, Millennials have shown an interest in imported and craft brews. In fact, sales in these categories have risen 14% over the past 5 years. That’s nothing to scoff at and falls in line with what we know about Millennial buying patterns, which prioritize authentic experiences and flavors.
Beer companies have taken note. Many are developing premium beverage lines that specialize in new and exciting flavors to appeal to the adventurous Millennial palate. Trends include flavor profiles that combine sour and bitter or even salty, sour, and flowery.2 As someone who admits to not having a developed beer palate, these blends definitely sound strange to me, but I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t curious. I can only imagine what these sound like to true beer connoisseurs.
Food and Beverage Firms Can Innovate Flavors to Revitalize Beer Brews
One of the trends to emerge from the Millennial palate is a preference for sweet. Cocktails have been trending sweeter in recent years, so it’s no surprise this is leaking over into beer brews. Case in point: boozy root beer.3 For food and beverage companies, hard root beer is a safe bet. Most people are familiar with the taste of root beer, and even if you add alcohol into the mix, chances are you won’t be able to taste it anyway. That’s part of the appeal. Even I’ve had hard root beer, and I don’t like either root beer or beer.
This isn’t to say breweries can’t choose more experimental blends. While boozy root beer is a safe choice, lobster and sea salt is not. But a company in Maine did exactly that, by incorporating lobsters into their brewing process. It may sound strange, but the brewer says it adds the shellfish’s telltale sweetness and brininess to the beer.4 I’m sure it’s an interesting novelty to Maine locals, for whom lobster is a summertime staple. As you can see, the only limitations to craft brew flavors are those that exist in your imagination.
Electronic Lab Notebooks Can Benefit Food and Beverage Companies
We’ve discussed in the past how electronic lab notebooks (ELNs) can help brew a better beer. The biggest advantage offered by ELNs is how they can keep track of new craft beer formulations. Whether it’s new and different additives or timing changes to affect sourness, an ELN can store all that information in one place. Procedures, data, and results can also be tagged, making it possible for users to search.
ELNs also offer the following features:
- Secure log-ins: Users can access the ELN only if they have the proper credentials. Even better, varying levels of access can be assigned. For example, a manager can access more information in the notebook than a technician.
- IP protection: ELNs can keep track of when a data record was created by timestamps. It can also track if and when a record has been altered and by whom. This maintains an audit trail in case a question arises.
- Collaborative tools: ELNs allow users to share information with their colleagues. This helps streamline workflow by alerting collaborators when one step of a project is complete and the next can begin. It also keeps people aware of a formulation’s success or failure.
Beer sales may be flat in recent years, but that doesn’t mean the industry can’t be revitalized. Craft beers appear to be thriving, suggesting that this is an area where food and beverage companies should focus. By experimenting with additives and flavor profiles, recapturing the younger generation’s interest should be more than possible.
- “Does the Declining U.S. Beer Trend Spell Doom for Brewers?,” June 29, 2015, http://www.forbes.com/sites/greatspeculations/2015/06/29/does-the-declining-u-s-beer-trend-spell-doom-for-brewers/ ↩
- “Next Big Trends in Craft Brewing,” July 20, 2015, http://urbanmilwaukee.com/2015/07/20/beer-city-next-big-trends-in-craft-brewing/ ↩
- “Boozy Root Beer is About to Be Huge,” July 21, 2015, http://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2015-07-21/boozy-root-beer-is-about-to-be-huge ↩
- “Maine brewer makes beer out of live lobsters, sea salt,” July 23, 2015 http://www.foxnews.com/leisure/2015/07/23/maine-brewer-makes-beer-out-live-lobsters-sea-salt/ ↩