Craft beer market booming

The New Zealand craft beer market is booming and showing no signs of slowing down - just ask one man who has tasted at least 500 different New Zealand beers since 2009.

Stephen Bennett has made it his mission to taste every beer that comes through New Zealand taps, but it's a mission he is struggling to keep up with.

The number of New Zealand breweries has almost doubled in the past four years, led by a 50 per cent rise in the number of small craft breweries.

A Brewers Guild survey also found 42 per cent of its respondents exported their product and a further 32 per cent expected to in the next two years.

It is a specialty market which those selling the product have seen steadily expand in the past few years.

Foodstuffs, which operates Pak'n Save, New World and 4 Square supermarkets, said that while the beer category at supermarkets had seen an overall slowdown, craft beer sales was one area showing growth.

"And we anticipate that demand for craft beer will continue to increase in the coming years, particularly given the number of new entrants into the market,'' spokeswoman Antoinette Shallue said.

Craft beer sales grew by about 7 per cent in the past year, and now accounted for about 10 per cent of all beer sales in the supermarkets, she said.

Mr Bennett, who keeps a close eye on the market as he constantly adds to his list of beers to try, said that even in the past six months he had noticed a significant growth in craft beer numbers.

"I can't keep up with the number of brewers.''

The choice was a good thing, but he did wonder about market saturation.

However, just a few weeks ago he met a man who was brewing beer from his home in Lower Hutt and was making a living from it.

"If you look at someone who can actually make a living in that small catchment area, it means that possibly there is room for extension.''

Society of Beer Advocates (Soba) national secretary Greig McGill said sales of mainstream beers had decreased while sales of craft beers had increased.

"There's just a lot more people getting into craft brewing.''

He said Soba had about 570 members throughout the country, about a fifth of whom he estimated to be women.

"It's an amazingly diverse bunch of people. I think when we first started it was a lot of ex-pat Englishmen ... but I think now there seems to be a very large representation of 20-something, fairly affluent people - a lot of IT workers, a lot of accountants, a lot of lawyers, a lot of government department people.''

Mr McGill said the growth in craft beer was not driven by the supply side, but by an increase in demand.

"People have seen what's happened in the (US) with craft beer absolutely taking off, and we've followed that to some extent.

"There's also the fact that everyone's just getting more into the big push for locally grown stuff, and locally produced and small producers _ all that sort of getting back-to-basics movements that's swept the world.

Glengarry general manager Liz Wheadon said craft beer was one of the fastest growing parts of its market.

"It's been really big over the last two years, but we have seen the trend for the past three to four.''

And she expected to continue seeing an upwards trend.

"It's only just started and it's going to go ballistic.''