How Craft Breweries Can Improve Distribution with Creative Packaging and Storytelling

The competition’s gotten tough for craft beer brewers. Even amid a pandemic and economic uncertainty, demand for craft beer has stayed high.

Just a decade ago, there were barely 2,000 craft breweries operating in the United States. In 2021, that number grew by more than 380%, totaling a reported 9,667 businesses.

With so many brands out there these days, brewers are under extra pressure to get their beers out into the market. Shelf-space is limited, so beyond the essential foundation of brewing an excellent product, having a top-notch marketing and sales strategy is essential for growth.

But most craft breweries face a slight obstacle when it comes to their selling capabilities: the notorious three-tier system.

The Three-Tier Challenge

Now, don’t get us wrong. Craft beer owes a lot to the three-tier distribution system.

Despite varying levels of effectiveness and enforcement across the country, the system has helped to prevent the industry from being monopolized by Big Beer. With an independent distribution network between retailers and producers, smaller breweries have been able to thrive as distributors embraced these brands and pushed them forward.

But working with wholesale distributors does come with some obstacles, not the least of which is a lack of control over how and where your beer is sold.

Once you’ve agreed to work with a distributor, it becomes their job to sell and distribute your brand to shops and retailers. While a good distributor should certainly consider your input, the final decision is typically up to them, putting you in a challenging position.

On top of that, your beer could run the risk of being neglected. After all, some distributors handle hundreds or even thousands of brands. If your products aren’t performing well, they may very well end up on the back burner.

Ultimately, where your products are available and the shelf space that they get both depend on how well your distributor can sell your brand. But with a third party doing the selling for you, how do you make sure that your brand doesn’t suffer from a bad game of telephone?

Well, by paying special attention to your brand story and packaging! A unique story and stand-out packaging are the tools that you pass along to your distributor to help them sell your beers. And the more powerful and effective those tools are, the easier it is for them to make you stand out.

Knowing Your Brand Story

According to insights from top craft beer distributors, passionate brewers with a unique story to tell are the kinds of brands that distributors have their eye on.

As businesses with humble and interesting upstarts, most craft breweries are in a prime position to tell engaging brand stories, your own brewery included. What do you brew? Who are you brewing it for? Why are you special? All of these questions and more are answered by your story and message.

Take Coppertail Brewing Co. for instance. The local brewery emphasizes its Tampa roots through an intriguing story once told by the owner’s 5-year-old daughter. A mysterious sea creature that lurks beneath Tampa Bay, “Coppertail” became the perfect symbol of their risk-filled journey to bring Florida-inspired, Tampa-brewed beer to the masses.

With a 100-year-old building in the historic Ybor neighborhood, a tasting room decorated with old world Tampa relics, and beer made through “time-honored, old-world production techniques,” Coppertail Brewing Co.’s story is crafted into everything it offers.

Coppertail Tap Room Creative Storytelling for Craft Beer Brands
Coopertail Tap Room. Photo Courtesy of Copptertail Brewering.

Your brand’s story is the foundation of your competitive advantage. It is what you — and your distributors — present to the world about your beer. But even the most interesting plot can fall flat when it is told wrong.

Like beer, a story is about more than just the right ingredients. A skilled storyteller is needed to put it all together and create a truly compelling tale. That’s where we can help. Our creative services combine strategy and design to take your story from rough draft to page-turner.

When given an irresistible story to work with, distributors become better equipped to sell your brand. As the CEO of MIMS Distributing Co. declared, “When you know a brewery inside and out, and share that knowledge with others in the community, your distribution efforts are sure to be a success.”

The Power of Packaging

Going hand-in-hand with your brand story is your beer’s package design. Without a doubt, a stand-out label can be the neon sign that attracts shoppers’ attention. In a similar way, it can also be an effective selling tool that you can provide for your distributors.

When it comes to design, the craft beer industry is one that embraces creativity and artistry. Craft consumers are the experimental type, open to exploring new brands and appreciative of different forms of expression.

As a result, there aren’t hard-set formulas for craft beer packaging. Instead, effective packaging design is guided by a brewery’s story. Your beer’s package design should be made up of visual elements that share your brand’s personality and show off your special perspective on craft beer.

Funky Buddha Creative Packaging Design for Craft Beer
Funky Buddha New Brand Design 2021. Photo Courtesy of Funky Buddha

With bright, unmissable colors and groovy designs, Funky Buddha’s packaging does just that. For a brewery that’s all about whipping up “unconventional-yet-exceptional” beers (a peanut butter and jelly brown ale, anyone?), packaging that screams fun and funky is the perfect fit.  

When you tap into your unique story and are unafraid to get expressive with your labels, you end up with distinct designs that customers can identify with. Whether that identity is colorfully nostalgic or bold and classic, your packaging is a powerful tool that can make all the difference when selling your brand.

A Creative Agency That Knows Craft Beer

We know you’re passionate about craft beer. That’s why you deserve a creative agency that appreciates that. Better yet, you deserve an agency with first-hand experience in the art of brewing.

Having made more than 100+ unique beers for our team, clients, family, and friends, PH3 Agency + Brewery is a team of marketing professionals with craft beer running in our veins. By working with us, you’ll not only get strategy and design experts but folks who genuinely understand your love of the craft.

Nothing beats the synergy created from a shared passion. Contact us today and, before you know it, we’ll both be saying “Cheers!” to new successes.