For this issue, we asked BeerAdvocate.com users: Prices continue to rise on six-packs, while more and more brewers are releasing four-packs with six-pack or higher pricing. Do you think craft beer six-packs are headed for extinction or will consumers simply get used to paying more for them?
raverjames (South Carolina)
As a beer buyer and manager at a bottle shop, I feel that while the distribution and sales of six-packs may be a dying trend, the concept and idea will always remain. Most craft beer stores are now breaking down the price on cases and selling the beer by the bottle. While the end cost and markup may remain the same, it allows for a more adventurous purchase. People still want to fill that six-pack cardboard carton with beer, but most appreciate the choice of which beers come together in the set. The rise in cost is not a result of different packaging; it is just a consequence of a growing market and craft beer popularity. The packaging just makes the product easier to sell.
My answer is both yes and no. For the more affordable, widely distributed craft beers such as Samuel Adams and Sierra Nevada, the six-pack is here to stay. When budget-conscious consumers treat themselves to one of these craft beers over the non-craft competition, an identical packaging size matters a lot for a quick evaluation of the price differences involved. However, the four-pack may be suitable for craft beers that appeal to a narrower audience of beer advocates. Smaller packaging allows for greater variety—assuming the same price per bottle, who wouldn’t prefer six different four-packs over four different six-packs? And finally, the four-pack seems to distinguish a beer as being special, and is a packaging change that is unlikely to be imitated by the non-craft competition whose consumer base seems to be more interested in large-volume consumption. People who buy 30-packs won’t buy a four-pack.
Soda went from primarily cases and six-packs to the now ubiquitous fridge packs (which only hold 12). As industries mature and evolve, packaging always plays a part in that maturity. Craft beer is at a critical point in its evolution where some consumers, longtime advocates included, perceive the costs as having gotten very high in light of the current economy. It is only natural for packaging to evolve to help obscure the actual per-unit costs and keep the consumer purchasing. Will six-packs die? Unlikely. Will packaging continue to evolve? Certainly. ■