Why are beer growlers more expensive than six-packs?

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Listener Teresa Duggan from Baltimore, Maryland asks:

Why are beer growlers more expensive than a six pack of the same beer? I like the idea of ​​not wasting resources on cans, bottles, labels, gas, machines, etc. unnecessary, so I thought it would be cheaper to just refill a reusable bottle. But I found the opposite: local beers always seem to be more expensive per ounce compared to containers packaged and shipped the same way.

When it comes to manufacturing, a good rule of thumb is that the bigger the package, the less it will cost you in the long run, all thanks to economies of scale. Buying bigger boxes of Kleenex, Coke bottles, and all those bulk items you find at Costco costs more upfront, but the unit price is cheaper.

Still, beer growlers — containers that allow you to store large amounts of alcoholic beverage — generally seem to defy conventional wisdom and cost more than small, prepackaged cans.

In general, breweries need to price their products competitively at the supermarket, but not so much at the taproom, where people are there to enjoy the experience and are less concerned about price, according to Jack Buffington, professor of supply practice. chain management at the University of Denver.

For example, at Temblor Brewing in Bakersfield, Calif., a six-pack of Kern County Premium 12-ounce lagers is $8.99, or about 12 cents an ounce. But a 64-ounce growler of that same beer costs $18, or about 28 cents an ounce.

Don Bynum, co-founder of Temblor Brewing, explained that when it comes to six-packs, the price is dictated by the market. “We don’t want to have different prices than retailers charge for the same product on the street,” he said.

Bynum said the company has also made a big investment in its packaging. “The beer industry is built for big breweries, not small ones,” he said. “Being a small brewery and trying to compete with these guys is pretty tough.”

The reason growlers are more expensive at Temblor is that the company wants consumers to buy its cans instead.

“They come out with a growler that doesn’t have the brand on it. It doesn’t have the visible investment we’ve made in the boxes,” Bynum said.

Bynum said the brewery likes to fill growlers — it’s just that the economics of doing so are tough.

The more growlers Temblor sells, Bynum added, the longer the queues at their restaurant due to the time it takes to fill one. And that complicates customer retention.

There are also labor considerations. Those five minutes spent filling a growler could instead be spent helping three different groups order food and beers, he said.

In contrast, a brewery that has a tasting room where there’s a food truck outside will likely have an easier time filling growlers, Bynum added.

Another downside of growlers, Bynum said, is that the beer can degrade while sitting in the containers, affecting the perceived quality of the product.

“Oxygen is what destroys beer. So when you fill a growler – unless you have special machines, which most breweries don’t have – you’re adding oxygen to the beer. “, he said. “And so, for every hour or 30 minutes that beer is not consumed, it changes and deteriorates.

Since most people probably don’t drink 64 ounces in one night, what happens is that you have a product in less than ideal form. “It hurts the brand, because they say, ‘That doesn’t taste good,'” he said.

At Fulbrook Ale Works in Richmond, Texas, it costs $12 to fill a 64-ounce growler with Red White & Brew lager, or about 19 cents an ounce. A six-pack of 12-ounce cans is cheaper at $10, or nearly 14 cents an ounce.

Jeff Hajovsky, the owner of Fulbrook Ale Works, explained via email that his growlers are more expensive than six-packs because they’re meant to be consumed outdoors. He said some patrons break the rule (knowingly or unknowingly) and “consume the growlers on the property like a pitcher of beer.”

“Since it is difficult to distinguish whether or not a growler has been opened on site by a customer, even if the top is taped, we have just made the price of the growler (per ounce) the same as the price pint on the spot,” he continued. .

As to why then the pint (about 19 cents an ounce) costs more than the six-pack, Hajovsky said that’s because the pints are consumed in the restaurant where you have bartenders and entertainment – think TV, games and music. “Similarly, if you’re buying a drink at a sports arena or amusement park, the price is usually a bit higher,” he said. “[It’s] the price to enjoy the atmosphere compared to home.”

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