Almost 80% of small or independent brewing companies in Northwest Arkansas have adopted the Brewers Association certified independent craft brewer seal, which is beginning to appear on labels in Arkansas.
The silhouette of an upside-down bottle is the image distinguishing a brew as being produced by a small, traditional and independent brewery. On the bottle are the words “Independent Craft.”
Some large beer corporations have acquired craft beer companies but have not added the parent company name to the label, according to Julia Herz, program director for the Brewers Association, which represents small and independent brewing companies in the U.S.
Big breweries already have more marketing muscle, and many distributors are also majority owned or controlled by the large brewers. For them to present formerly-independent beers in their portfolio, without changing the name, increases the competitive advantage, Herz said.
Statewide, more than 60% of the 41 small or independent brewing companies have been certified to use the seal, as have 15 of the 19 based in Northwest Arkansas.
In 2011, there were six craft breweries in Arkansas. That number has steadily increased each year. In 2016, 42,294 barrels of craft beer were produced in Arkansas. The economic impact on the state was $406 million, ranking the state 37th in the nation, according to the Brewers Association.
The new seal was introduced almost one year ago, Herz said, and 3,400 of the nation’s 5,500 craft brewing companies are certified to use it.
“After recent acquisitions, it became apparent that many [craft brewers] wanted a way to differentiate from big beer, so we’re flipping the script,” Herz said.
Being an independent brewer is key to obtaining the seal. No more than 25% of a company can be owned by a party producing more than 6 million barrels of beer per year.
The entire category of craft beer produces less than 24 million barrels per year, which is less than half of the barrels produced by Molson Coors (more than 52 million). Anheuser-Busch produces upward of 90 million each year, Herz said.
Andrew Blann, manager at Fossil Cove Brewing Co. in Fayetteville, said the brewery was certified to use the seal several months ago.
“We incorporated it as soon as we could and are transitioning to use it on our cans,” he said. “It’s a new concept to create a distinction, and a lot of people are looking for that transparency.”