California Brewers Remain Flexible in Changing Industry

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In mid-April, California Craft Brewers Association (CCBA) hosted their Spring Conference in Long Beach, bringing together over 450 craft brewers and industry members for three days of networking and education.

California is often considered a bell-weather state for many issues—the U.S. beer industry is certainly deeply affected by the activities in Sacramento.

The California brewing scene is fully mature at this point, with over 600 licensed brewers in the state. The CCBA has been leading the charge on advancing the industry for so long, and so effectively, craft brewers are no longer fledglings at the Capitol. Political expectations are changing in California, and this is becoming more and more common across the country. Brewers have earned a roll to be standing shoulder-to-shoulder with everyone else in the chamber of commerce, which often comes with responsibilities previously not considered—like running for local representative seats and donating money to representatives.

The CCBA had numerous successes at the Capitol this last year, successfully easing laws and access to market for brewery members through farmers market sampling, social media advertising, retail license stacking and streamlined label registration.

In the 2016 political environment, global beer acquisitions, consolidations, share of mind, distribution tier consolidation, Attorneys General and anti-trust reviews are all at the top of mind. The minimum wage increase to $15 per hour will certainly deeply impact small main street brewery businesses.

Prop 65 OEHHA Regulations continue to be a challenge, with a new proposal to revise these regulations. The state is now requiring Proposition 65 retailer signage warning of the potential harm from BPA (Bisphenyl-A), a compound used in the liners of many cans and the seal for the lids of bottle caps. The Brewers Association, in cooperation with other food and beverage trade associations, reached an agreement with the state to fund, print and send these signs to 88,000 retailers in California. If you sell beer in California, read more here about your liability and protection. CALIFORNIA BREWERS REMAIN FLEXIBLE IN CHANGING INDUSTRY

CCBA members have been doing an outstanding job at hosting legislators at their breweries. Indeed, CCBA members are leaders when it comes to developing legislator champions, consistently educating policy makers on the business of brewing beer. The vast majority of members in Sacramento (82 of 120) have less than 2 years of experience. It’s imperative that brewers reach out to these law makers and build relationships.

Other seminars at the conference included New Alcohol and Employment Laws for 2016, Marketing Events and Promoting Taprooms, Mixed Fermentation Programs, Funding Growth, Evaluating Raw Materials, Quality Lab Essentials, Wholesaler Relations and many more.

Upcoming initiatives for the CCBA include rolling out new membership benefits, including multiple employer 401k programs, a Tap Talks educational series, and a new website launch with streamlined members-only section.

The CCBA will be hosting their 2nd Annual California Craft Beer Summit September 8-10, 2016 in Sacramento, an event not-to-miss for California brewers. California Brewers Remain Flexible in Changing Industry

Natalie Cilurzo of Russian River will now be taking over as chair of the CCBA board, with David Walker (Firestone Walker) stepping down. David says, “The last several years on the CCBA board have been some of the most enriching and professionally rewarding years of my life.”

Natalie introduced herself and the CCBA, imparting to the audience, “The reason you’re here in this room is because you care. You care about the industry, you can about your peers, you care about doing the right thing.”

Natalie acknowledged the immense amount of privileges that California craft brewers claim, and that these laws are critical to the industry’s longevity. She explained those laws are there to protect small brewers to ensure a fair and competitive marketplace. Indeed, global brewers can give away so much more than small brewers can. Natalie encouraged the community to hold each other accountable and call folks out when they are not abiding by the laws.

“If we can’t police what we have going for us right now, then why would legislators give brewers even more privileges to screw up?”

Benj Steinman’s final closing keynote was themed “Everything’s Changing.”

“The last 6-9 months have been a period of radical change,” says Benj. “There’s been 28 craft deals in the last 13-14 months. ABI has purchased six craft brewers in last 18 months. Craft used to be the change, and now the change is happening to craft.”

As Benj put it, volatility is the new norm and it will only get harder from here. “Big Beer has invaded craft turf with a dizzying number of deals and craft is showing signs of slowing down. But craft created a huge change in consumer taste and there is still plenty of upside. To capitalize, craft brewers must focus on their strengths, know your limitations and differentiate.”