Lessons from Festbier

Oct 14, 2021Beverages, Categories, Seasonal Flavor Insights

If you’ve been to a grocer in the last two months, you may be seeing orange, even when you close your eyes. The DayGlo-hued jack-o-lanterns and aisles of variety candy mark the start of fall and the march toward Halloween.

If you venture past the displays, a trip to the beer aisle offers a different indicator of the season: Oktoberfest lagers.

beer mugs raising a toast

At any store, you will likely find several offerings of German lager from local breweries with strong distribution channels. Being of the same general style, they’ll have a similar profile with a few unique characteristics that match consumer expectations of what an Oktoberfest beer should taste like. The Oktoberfest in stores this season hasn’t always boasted what we now think of as its hallmark profile.

At the onset of the first Oktoberfest, the titular beer was a Bavarian Dunkel, but decades later, the amber Märzen was introduced. A century down the road, after experimentation with lighter and lighter malts, the Festbier was released and is now the official style of beer at Oktoberfest.

This evolution serves as a reminder of ever-shifting consumer desires and the willingness of successful institutions to adapt but when those levers are pulled, and this sentiment holds true at this moment.

Beer Today

Beer has taken a recent hit – in part due to the loss of on-premise sales during COVID, but those losses are amplified by category flight and consumers shifting to seltzers, ciders, and other low-abv options.

With that in mind, there’s still lots to be hopeful about in the beer category. Here’s where it stands:

Sales Decline

The beer category has seen volume sales declines for years, mainly due to category flight. A reliance on the higher price point of craft beer to raise total dollar sales will mean a hit to total sales dollars as well, due to on-premise locations (where most craft beer is sold) experiencing less traffic.


Craft and import beer are the two spaces where the category’s decline has yet to reach. A downturn in the pandemic in these spaces doesn’t seem to be trending long-term. Beer consumers are looking for more from brewers in terms of flavor, artisanship, experience, and brand.

Flavor Exploration

Seasonal and limited offerings can drive at-home drinking experiences for the beer category. Novel concepts and high-performing seasonal flavors peak consumer interest. These market options will need to rely on strong distribution.

Seasonal Flavors

In the current beer space, innovation to meet consumer demand hasn’t ceased. Driven by seasonal releases and limited-time-offers, brewers are looking to capture the consumer after an at-home drinking experience.

Like with the evolution of the Oktoberfest beer, a consumer shift has occurred. To drive at-home growth, seasonal flavor exploration is a necessity.

Here’s a look at top-performing fall and winter flavors.

Top Fall & Winter Flavors – Beer

  • Spice
  • Pumpkin
  • Coffee
  • Cinnamon
  • Honey
  • Berry
  • Caramel
  • Chocolate
  • Cranberry
  • Ginger
  • Maple
  • Roasted

Oktoberfest beer has changed over time, adapting to consumer demands. It has become, lighter, more sessionable, and more in-line with what consumers are looking for to ring in the season. It’s time to follow suit and bring growth back to beer in the spaces where consumers are thirsty for it.

Want to know which flavor is right for you? Ask your Account Manager about these marketing insights or contact us here. We have the capabilities to help you find the right flavor profile for your consumer or customer, and we can find the right ingredients to fit your processes.

If you’re interested in trying our demos to understand what our ingredients can do for your base, ask your Account Manager. OR, if you don’t have an Account Manager, please email us at NOAM.Marketing@Givaudan.com.



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