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Craft beers move upmarket in 2008

BY Barbara White-Sax

Beer is continuing to move upmarket. With consumers clamoring after craft beers, brewers are shifting more of their offerings to higher-end products, and experts say the market is ripe for an influx of even more pricey craft brews.

“In the late ’90s, new entrants came from a hodgepodge of breweries and the market wasn’t ready for so many new and more expensive introductions,” said Peter Reid, publisher of Modern Brewery Age. “Now, all systems are go. There are a lot of strong players that have good distribution.” Reid said he expects to see the double-digit growth that craft beers have been generating continue in 2008.

Volume sales of craft beers jumped 11 percent in the first half of 2007 compared with the same period one year ago and dollar growth surged 14 percent, according to the Brewers Association. Association figures show that craft beer has surpassed 5 percent of overall beer dollar sales. Industry experts say that number could grow from 15 percent to 29 percent within the next 10 years.

The trend is fueled by consumers’ desire for luxury beers. “Brewers are doing a lot of interesting beers,” Reid said. “Consumers have embraced these higher-end products. They know with seasonal beers, for example, that the beer is fresh and they are willing to pay more for a premium product.” Distributors and retailers also like the bump in sales that quick in-and-out products can lend to the category.

A recent poll of more than 1,000 chefs by the National Restaurant Association found craft beers to be the sixth-hottest culinary trend in the nation. Consumers have shown plenty of support for small breweries. In fact, the fastest-growing craft beer sector in 2006 was microbreweries, which were up 16 percent, according to the Brewers Association.

Big brewers also are embracing the trend. This month, Miller will test market Miller Lite Brewers Collection in three markets. The new line consists of a blond ale, an amber beer and a wheat beer.

“Light beer continues to provide the greatest sheer volume growth as American beer drinkers reaffirm their desire for drinkable, refreshing products,” said Julian Green, a spokesman for Miller. “As demonstrated by the continued growth of craft beer, we’re seeing an increasing interest in variety.”

Green said the new line offers “craft beer flavor with more refreshment and fewer carbs and calories than a typical craft beer” and is targeted to the mainstream light beer drinker who’s interested in trying something different.

“When Heineken came out with a premium light, the introduction went against the grain of the market, but the product has done very well,” Reid said. “It demonstrated that the products would bring new users to the category.”

Reid sees a growing market for seasonal beers, particularly Belgian beers and wheat beers. “Drug retailers, which have been under-developed in the craft beer category, should layer in ales and lagers to offer their consumers a more balanced portfolio of products,” he said.

Anheuser-Busch offered its Brew Masters’ Private Reserve from Budweiser for holiday 2007. The rich, malty Doppelbock brew featured four types of malts and was billed as a good pairing with holiday meals.

During the summer, consumers are likely to look for American wheat beers and German hefe-weizen brews. “These are very refreshing beers which are rich in B-complex vitamins, so they are a good bet for warm weather,” Reid said.

Smaller breweries are introducing a number of innovative entries. Dogfish Head Craft Brewery will bring Theobromo to market in August. The seasonal brew is based on an ancient Honduran beer.

In March, Clipper City will introduce Raspberry Wheat, an organic beer and Old Dominion will release its summer pilsner.

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Organic foods, flowers can show Valentine’s Day love to environment

BY DSN STAFF

BOSTON As the United States has become more eco-conscious, suppliers of flowers, chocolate and wines are helping consumers show their love for the environment this Valentine’s Day.

Such programs as Florverde in Colombia and VeriFlora Certified Sustainably Grown in the United States help ensure participating floral farms, handlers and distributors abide by environmental and social best-practice standards. European flowers, too, have their own certification standards in place.

Eco-conscious blooms also are available at several online floral with a range of eco-conscious labels such as USDA Organic, VeriFlora Certified and Fair Trade.

The search for “green” flowers requires a little work, however. Boxed flowers may arrive at a florist with certification seals, but once unpacked and sorted, one rose looks like any other. Some stores specifically order VeriFlora-certified flowers and other proprieters watch for the certified seals and keeps tabs on the originating farms. Even grocery chains may carry VeriFlora or Organic flowers without knowing. The best way to find out is to ask the florist.

Like flowers, organic and biodynamic wines are available for the asking. Many of these wines come from France, Italy and Spain, where makers craft wines using long-held family traditions. A few to look for are: Lopez de Heredia Rioja, Domaine Terlato & Chapoutier Shiraz-Viognier, Buondonno Chianti Classico and Domaine Des-Fouques Cotes de Provence. On this side of the Atlantic, California’s Coturri Winery is dedicated to producing wines that are 100 percent organic and sulfite-free.

Organic chocolate is easier to find, especially at chain retailers such as Whole Foods and Trader Joe’s. Look for the USDA Organic and Fair Trade logos on chocolate from makers Dagoba, Lake Champlain, Art Bar and Green & Black’s. Endangered Species Chocolates puts an eco-twist on chocolate by donating 10 percent of its net profits to environmental organizations.

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Purple Beverage Co., Big Geyser sign distribution agreement

BY DSN STAFF

FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. The Purple Beverage Co. announced it has signed an agreement with Big Geyser for the distribution of its Purple beverage throughout New York City’s five boroughs, Westchester County and Long Island’s Suffolk and Nassau counties.

Big Geyser is one of the largest independent, non-alcoholic beverage distributors in New York state and is the largest distributor in New York City, delivering its top-name beverage brands to convenience, drug and grocery stores, mass merchandisers, gas stations, restaurants and food services outlets throughout this region.

Purple, a fusion of seven antioxidant-rich juices featuring the exotic acai berry as well as black cherry, pomegranate, black currant, purple plum, cranberry and blueberry, will join Big Geyser’s beverage lineup, which already includes Glaceau’s Vitaminwater and Smart Water, Muscle Milk, Perrier, Mistic Beverages, Crystal Light, Poland Springs and Tazo Tea, among others.

“Teaming up with Big Geyser to bring Purple to consumers throughout the New York region is a huge milestone for Purple,” said Ted Farnsworth, Purple’s founder and chief executive officer. “Big Geyser is known in the beverage industry as the ‘one to watch’. It distributes only the finest beverages and has brought many hot new brands to market. The addition of Purple to its lineup not only increases our exposure but also constitutes a great endorsement of the quality of our beverage, and we anticipate a significant boost, both in name recognition and demand for Purple, throughout the entire metropolitan area.”

Purple has developed a loyal following of health and taste-conscious fans from coast to coast since it launched in 2007. The all-natural, no-sugar-added beverage can be found in health food stores, restaurants, delis, drug stores, supermarkets and convenience stores in select locations, including New York, Los Angeles, Miami and Hawaii. In February, it became available in select GNC locations. 

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