We were inspired this week by a Triple Pundit article on the organic beer market. The article got us thinking, why isn’t there more organic beer out there to choose from?
The article states U.S. organic beer sales jumped from $9 million in 2003 to $41 million in 2009. This is still only a small fraction of the craft beer market, but its progress. (Read more)
However, it remains challenging to come by a good selection of organic brews in your local bar or liquor store. Here may be some reasons why:
1. Organic beer may not be as profitable to produce as conventional brews. The shortage of organic ingredients infers a higher cost for raw materials for organic brewers. Suppliers seem to be aware of the fact that organic brewers will pay the higher costs in order to maintain their organic label. Meanwhile, most organic beer is competitively priced with its non-organic craft counterparts. Higher cost of production + similar price point = slimmer profit margins for organic brewing companies.
Some brewers like Sierra Nevada are overcoming this hurdle by growing their own ingredients on company owned property to brew small batches of organic beer.
2. It’s hard! Not only do organic brewers need to figure out a way to source organic ingredients in a short supply, and remain profitable, there’s red tape too. Obtaining and maintaining a USDA Organic Certification is a resource intensive task that non-organic brewers wouldn’t dream of taking on.
To make matters worse, in another recent Triple Pundit article, sources reveal that until a new law kicks in (in 2013), brewers can use conventional hops in their organic-labeled beer. In the meantime, mega-brewers are taking advantage of the organic labeling without providing a technically organic product. Not only does this seem unfair to true organic brewers who pay the full price, it’s also deceiving to consumers who are led to believe that their beer is pesticide-free. (Read more)
3. Is there demand? Well, is there?! How many people insist that their beer be organic? With rising skepticism of organic labeling in the U.S., is it even meaningful to select delicious organic ale? We do believe demand for organic beer is rising and that’s only the beginning.. However, if certified organic labeling doesn’t do its job, its bound to loose consumer confidence not only for labeled beer, but in the entire market of organically-labeled products…unless the beer industry finds another standard with more integrity to rely on.
Despite the struggles of this rapidly-growing market, a number of organic brewers have been paving the path. So cheers to 100 bottles of organic beer on the wall, and committed companies like Peak Brewing and Bison Brewing, among others.