Craft Brews and CUs: Two Industries Separated at Birth?

Much like credit unions in the financial industry, the craft beer market is one of the only segments of the U.S. beer market that is reporting solid growth.



In the fourth quarter 2006 edition of Credit Union Strategy and Performance (CUSP), Alix Patterson detailed six commonalities the credit union industry could draw from the craft brew movement, which has gained significant traction since the late 80s and ealy 90s. Today, much like the credit union movement, the craft beer market is one of the only segments of the U.S. beer market that continues to report solid growth. Craft beer production in the United States increased 5.9% from 2007 to 2008; U.S. market share hit 4.04% at the end of 2008, up from a stagnant 2.51% in 2003.

I just finished reading Beer School: Brewing Success at the Brooklyn Brewery written by Steve Hindy & Tom Potter, founders of the Brooklyn Brewery. The book is great for “beer snobs,” entrepreneurs, and credit union professionals alike. In addition to the six points Alix raised in 2006, there are other striking similarities between the two industries:

  1. The competitive advantage of "local"
    Like many credit unions today, Steve Hindy and Tom Potter were able to achieve wild PR and marketing success by leveraging their community ties and taking an active role in partnering with local organizations.
  2. Small is the new big
    Steve and Tom were also able to deliver a specialized level of service to their customers. The likes of which brewing giants such as InBev and MillerCoors could not compete.
  3. Education is key
    From the beginning, the founders of Brooklyn Brewery understood that educating customers about Brooklyn Brewery's products was integral to its success, so the founders created an educated sales force through weekly meetings about the beer they were selling. This education was passed from customer to beer drinker, creating a new culture of “beer made from the highest quality ingredients.”

Dec. 4, 2009



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