'Craft' as a contested term : authenticity and meaning among British beer consumers

Waehning, Nadine and Karampela, Maria and Pesonen, Juho; Bell, Emma and Mangia, Gianluigi and Taylor, Scott and Toraldo, Maria Laura, eds. (2018) 'Craft' as a contested term : authenticity and meaning among British beer consumers. In: The Organization of Craft Work. CRC Press, Boca Raton. ISBN 9781138636668

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This chapter analyses associations consumers attach to the ‘craft’ label in the context of the booming craft-brewing industry. Craft has long been employed as a symbol of distinct artisanship in this industry, but there are currently claims of a ‘craft beer revolution’. The increasing number of craft breweries is in alignment with consumers’ increasing need for authenticity (Kadirov, Varey and Wooliscroft, 2014). Authenticity is becoming one of the cornerstones of contemporary marketing (Brown, Sherry and Kozinets, 2003). In this study, we analyse brewing industry definitions of craft, and argue that the term has been used and abused by both brewers and consumers, to signify much more than the dictionary perspective of attachment to traditional methods and skills. Through 16 interviews, we reveal how the current ambiguity around craft is evident in its usage by consumers, via locating our findings within theoretical debates on authenticity. We argue that this ambiguity is a challenge for the industry as the term is in danger of losing its original meaning. Without a clear definition of this signifier or clarity in its everyday use, it becomes challenging for stakeholders to even discuss the topic, or to plan sustainable growth. Ambiguity in the use of the term craft beer also makes it impossible to define what is authentic and what it is not. The rest of the chapter proceeds as follows. First, we examine existing conceptualisations of the term ‘craft’, focusing especially on brewing contexts. Then we review how authenticity and its different meanings link to consumer-product interactions, before we articulate the objectives of our empirical work and its methodology. We then present our findings, and conclude with suggestions for future research.