A majority of US beer drinkers would be willing to pay more for beer produced with sustainable practices, according to a new study from Indiana University.
The study, which was published in the journal PLOS One, highlights the potential for energy savings and sustainability in an energy-intensive industry that is growing rapidly.
Researchers claim that the beer industry has “considerable potential” for reducing energy use and mitigating its impact on climate change. Some breweries have already added solar panels, installed on-site wastewater treatment plants, insulated brewing vessels and recaptured steam from the brewing process.
But those kinds of measures require upfront investments that are likely to increase prices. To determine whether consumers would be willing to pay more for sustainably brewed beer, the researchers drew on a survey of over 1,000 beer drinkers and found that 59% said they would pay more.
“The takeaway for the brewing industry is that it is financially feasible to introduce energy-saving practices into the brewing process,” said study co-author Sanya Carley.
“Even if it ends up adding costs, more than half of all beer consumers are willing to absorb those extra costs.”
The study revealed that consumers who already pay more for their beer were most likely to be willing to pay a premium for sustainability. Also, those who said they would pay more for sustainable beer were likely to report lifestyle activities associated with the common good. For example, they spent time in volunteer work or engaged in recycling, composting, and buying locally produced food and products.
However, there was no significant correlation between the type of beer that consumers preferred and their willingness to pay more for sustainability, after controlling for differences in price. Consumers of traditional American lagers – such as Budweiser and Coors – were “as likely to be willing to pay more as those who prefer craft beers”.
The researchers said that the proliferation of beer varieties suggests that brewers will have to find new ways to distinguish themselves in a crowded market, and going green could be a way to do just that.
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