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Turning the tap on for Craft Beer

04 Dec 2018
By Sarah Morgan
Craft Beer NZ Story

How do Kiwi craft beer exporters get a bigger sip of the international market?

Globally, alcohol consumption is trending downwards. But trends also show when people do drink, they want quality. Although a minor craft beer exporter, New Zealand exports have surged more recently – due in part to our famed hops – from $1 million in 2010 to $4.5 million in 2015, according to the ANZ Craft Beer report, 2017.

While Australia is the top export destination for beer, China is a close second where growth is almost twice as fast, and the price per litre is almost triple. But our exporters face challenges: market domination by international heavyweights, tricky logistics, packaging, labelling and compliance. By example, in China – the largest global beer market – of the top ten beers sold by volume, four are Chinese: Tsingtao, Yanjing, Harbin and the global leader, Snow, which sold 105.6 million hectolitres in 2016.


Changing consumer tastes show beer drinkers are more adventurous and educated – a major opportunity to Kiwi craft beer entrepreneurs. We’re already well-known for producing some of the world’s best quality food products, such as manuka honey, kiwifruit and feijoa – why not combine these with our world-class hops? Moa’s recently-unveiled wheat beer brewed with deer velvet specifically for the Chinese market sold out in just 48 hours. Nelson-based Freestyle Hops works closely with craft beer producers to curate unique Kiwi aromas for changing and more creative consumer palettes. And look at the local experiment with Garage Project and Whittaker’s to create chocolate beer. Experimenting with uniquely Kiwi flavours adds a point of difference, appealing to the growing number of adventurous craft beer drinkers.   


Two major logistical hurdles for exporters are packaging and optimising the cool chain – essential to delivering quality product. Tapping into Kiwi innovation, such as Chilltainers, who provide recyclable and sustainable thermal packaging, can help streamline logistics and deliver fresh, quality products into market. As for issues with labelling and compliance – especially in foreign-language markets – the Government-accredited FernMark can help authenticate a product’s country of origin. The recognisable fern symbol, synonymous with New Zealand, is effective and trusted by distributors handling products in-market. The FernMark’s IP protection service also monitors over 1,000 e-commerce markets in China, including TMALL and Taobao. This ensures all products bearing the FernMark are licensed to do so, providing a mark of trust and authenticity.


Our collective New Zealand story is crucial to any exporters’ international success. For many consumers, country of origin is key to purchasing decisions. This is strengthened by consumers’ desire to understand the brand story behind the product. So, infusing our country values of Kaitiaki, Ingenuity & Integrity help drives preference for New Zealand products. Exporters should capitalise on these good attributes and insert themselves as part of this New Zealand story.

One example is Birkenhead Brewing Company’s locally-inspired packaging for its pilsner and pale ale exported to China – consumers are transported to Birkenhead and the Auckland Harbour Bridge with every sip. Another is Garage Project repositioning its product branding as fresh and environmentally conscious, linking to existing consumer ideals of New Zealand.

And now, through the FernMark Licence Programme, Kiwi craft beer legends Brothers Beer are the latest exporters to leverage New Zealand's iconic national symbol. Exporting across the Asia-Pacific the FernMark, which is displayed on Brothers Beer packaging, shows consumers their products are authentically New Zealand. 

The more exporters tell their New Zealand story globally, the more collective benefit for the Kiwi craft beer industry.