Currently, our economy is heavily reliant on unsustainable industrial concepts of mass production, constant growth, and disposable consumerism. To achieve a sustainable economy, we need to change the way we approach production.
Craft production is a form of production that places a high priority on local production and human skills. Craft principles were abandoned as industries modernized. However, they are now being revived. Craft revival is evident in many sectors, from butchering and textile manufacturing. But the craft beer industry, which has been booming, provides one of the best examples.
At the start of the 19th Century, there were about 1,000 breweries in the Netherlands. After the Industrial Revolution, there was a drastic switch to mass production of pilsner. By 1980, only 13 breweries remained, and four major players controlled 90% of market share. Since then, the revival of craft beer production has led to a dramatic increase in the number of breweries. There are well over 300 breweries today.
Craft brewing is not only revived in the Netherlands. In the last five decades, the number of breweries in 11 of the largest beer-producing nations has increased by a factor of 5. The factor increases to 23 if we exclude Belgium, Germany, and other countries where industrialization has had less impact. In the US, for example, there are now more than 6,00 craft breweries.
A change in demand is responsible for a part of the dramatic craft revival. The market is increasingly looking for authentic, local products fueled by nostalgia and a sentiment against mass production. This trend is most noticeable in the Food Industry.
Demand does not, however, change by itself. It is necessary to have producers who are willing and capable of following alternative production principles and educating consumers. A study on the Dutch beer industry revealed that the success of the craft movement is largely due to a diverse group of beer lovers who have dedicated themselves to becoming brewmasters and reviving craft brewing techniques. Craft beer revival shows a shift away from industrial production that is not sustainable and is desirable.
These crafty innovators face a number of challenges. Craft movements must first shake off the notion that it is an old-fashioned mode of production and adhere strictly to historical methods and recipes.
Craft beer revolution was impossible in Germany and Belgium, for example, where beer brewing has a long history. Breweries in these countries tend to have narrow definitions of traditional craft production and expectations on how and where the skill should be used, like following old community recipes. This “craft” concept limits innovation, and both countries do not have the rich craft brewing culture that exists elsewhere.
Successful craft movements, however, harness the power and authenticity of localism, nostalgia, and authenticity without becoming stuck in the past. One Dutch brewer expressed this attitude:
The false romanticism of beer lovers and the reality of beer making has always bothered me. Craft beer brewing is an art. You create your own recipes. Old recipes do not exist. All beers brewed more than 100 years ago were disgusting.
It is an extreme view: in general, traditions are handled with more respect. Brewers emphasize their independent, traditional background through craft while experimenting to make entirely new beers. Craft is a broad term that should be expanded to include innovation and tradition.
Craft brewers were able to resist the lure of big money and build a separate market for craft beer. However, industrial brewers are now a href=”https://www.forbes.com/sites/garystoller/2018/03/20/craft-breweries-dominate-50 but-guess which giants rule the beer market/#7d31b75edcad”>taking over successful craft brewing companies at an increasing rate. Craft brewers initially were able to build a separate craft beer market and resist the lure of big money. However, industrial brewers are now acquiring successful craft breweries with increasing speed.
Bavaria recently acquired De Molen in Bodegraven, one of the Netherlands’ most successful craft breweries. Bavaria owns De Koningshoeven in the Netherlands, a Dutch abbey known for its authentic Trappist beers. Heineken bought Brand, the oldest still operating brewery, early in the 2000s. This marks a new phase of consolidation, and it raises concerns about the sustainability of the craft movement.
This is not just a simple matter of re-concentration of power. Businesses are also showing interest in heritage. This is because consumers are increasingly looking for authenticity. This is what the past conveys, cloaked in a mystic aura of nostalgia. Companies use companies use the past for a more authentic look. The past has what businesses need.
Companies that are not long-lasting themselves can purchase it. Older businesses are regularly purchased by new manufacturers in order to root their products further into the past. They brand their newly acquired tradition with slogans like “since 1820”. Companies are also buying into the craft. The companies take advantage of the growing demand for authenticity in the market by using clever advertising to create the illusion that art is being produced. Craft-washing appears to be a practice of big business. They want to be associated with the craft brand, but do they also want to associate themselves with craft values?
It is important to note that the values and practices of craftsmanship are in line with those required for a sustainable economic system. We can build an economy that is based on excellence, sustainability, and durability if we redefine craftsmanship as built to last instead of a nostalgic eulogy for the past.
Craft can provide the values and means for a sustainable social and environmental system. Craft beer boom in the US led to a dramatic rise in employment at a time when beer consumption was declining. Producing less but better products can be more environmentally friendly than mass-produced items with short lifespans. Craft skills are important for recycling and repairing.
A new notion of craftsmanship can provide with the architecture needed for a sustainable and innovative economy. The entrepreneurs of the future will be those who redefine our relationship with material. These are the artisans who create beer from stale bread or leather using leftover fruit.
If these craft principles are to shape the new economic system, it will depend on how modern corporations integrate them into their organizations and go beyond the craft-washing. In the past, corporate success has been based on decisions that are contrary to craft principles. This means that corporations often struggle when it comes to implementing these ideas.
This transition will likely have to be maintained from the bottom up: in microbreweries and urban gardens, maker spaces, repair cafes, etc. These spaces aren’t just for making. They create the mentality required for a sustainable economic system. We need more makers and fewer managers.