Hop Take: FDA Calorie Counters Can’t Stop, Won’t Stop Craft Beer


3 minute Read

Hop Take: FDA Calorie Counters Can’t Stop, Won’t Stop Craft Beer

After more than a decade of threats, the Food and Drug Administration is now enforcing menu labeling requirements for U.S. restaurants. Effective May 7, the new law requires restaurants with 20 more locations to post calorie counts of everything they serve, including alcohol.

Alcohol was originally exempt from the rules, Paul Gatza, Brewers Association director, said during a press conference at the Craft Brewers Conference last week. It’s since been added, “so, we have to comply,” Gatza said.

In preparation for the change, the BA sent 60 types of beers to labs to procure average calorie counts. In what he referred to as a “focus group of one” — himself — Gatza said he did notice a change in his own buying behavior once he learned the calorie counts of his favorite beers. “Instead of getting an entree and a beer, I got an appetizer and two beers,” he said.

His anecdote, while humorous, hints at the FDA requirements’ implications for brewers. Consumers faced with calorie counts on menus may be less likely to purchase high-calorie beers, which craft beers often are. If Stone’s Imperial Russian Stout spills over 300 calories, we don’t even want to know what’s inside a pastry stout chock full of chocolate and lactose.

But that’s just it: We do know. We might not have the exact figures, but most of us who are passionate about our beer already know certain craft styles have high calorie counts.

When you’re dining and drinking in a restaurant, you’re out to treat yourself, Lisa Harnack, nutritional epidemiologist with the University of Minnesota School of Public Health, told CBS Minnesota. We agree.

The one place we could see calorie counts causing change in what people drink is in the beer styles that restaurant chains choose carry. For example, Gatza said, session IPA could grow more than IPA in that segment.

Beer drinkers may not be the most diet-obsessed consumers out there, but even the most health conscious among us know what we’re getting into when we order a brew. If we were concerned about calories, we wouldn’t be drinking craft beer in the first place. We drink craft beer because we love how it tastes, and what it stands for, not because we expect it to help us trim inches off our collective waistline. Right? Right.

Pass me a freshie, would you?

Molson Coors Is Having a Really Bad Week, Could Use a Hug

According to Molson Coors, the behemoth behind powerhouses Coors and Keystone, sales of its products dropped nearly 5 percent in the first quarter of this year.

Molson Coors president and chief executive officer Mark Hunter cited three reasons for this decline:

  • The reversal of a tax benefit in Europe, which negatively impacted net sales and pretax income by approximately $50 million
  • Reduced sales to wholesalers (STWs), down 6.7 percent
  • “Overall industry softness,” with U.S. brand volume down 3.8 percent

In a statement, Hunter also attributes the decline in brand volume “to poor weather.”

Between this report and Molson Coors chairman Pete Coors’ angry letter to the Brewers Association this week, we’d say Molson Coors is hurting, and it shows. The beer category overall is shrinking, and Big Beer is certainly not immune.

I don’t feel that bad for Molson Coors, mostly because the company and its leadership are rich AF. I wish its employees all the best, sort of, but what I really want is for it to leave room for craft brewers who innovate the category and inspire me and hundreds of thousands of craft drinkers worldwide. Also, I’m really into craft lagers right now.

Startup Breweries Are Disrupting Craft Beer, or Something

At the “State of the Industry” address at the 2018 Craft Brewers Conference (CBC), Bart Watson, Brewers Association chief economist, called microbreweries the “growth engine of craft.” It’s not all microbreweries, though — it’s the youngest ones.

Breweries founded after 2014 are driving the majority of segment growth, collectively adding 916,000 barrels to the category in 2017, Brewbound reports. This represents 52.6 percent growth over 2016.

Breweries founded before 2014 added 285,000 barrels to the craft segment, collectively growing just 1.3 percent.

It pays to be the hot new thing. It also pays to be nimble, on-trend, and locally focused. However, that doesn’t mean opening a new brewery is a get-rich-quick scheme.

We agree with Deb Carey, New Glarus co-founder, who said in her keynote address at CBC that those looking to make a quick buck by opening a brewery should “hop on the next plane to Colorado and chase the next gold rush.”

The more brewers, the better, as long as they’re motivated for the right reasons: making good beer, and positively impacting their communities.

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