Mead is now the fastest growing alcohol according to the America Mead Maker’s Association (AMMA). In fact, Bloomberg.com confirms it’s not just for hobbits anymore. In fact, a common perception is that mead is an overly sweet honey-wine only sold at renaissance fairs, or brewed in small batches at home. When, in fact, mead is being crafted in different varieties similar to locally brewed beer, and fermented to offer hints of spice and fruit like your favorite wine.
In addition to variety, it’s important to ensure mead is accessible to local customers and tourists in many different locations in a variety of product choices.
Will people want to come to a Mead Hall in Asheville?
In order to claim a stake in a city considered to be cool with a bohemian vibe, a meadery needs to compete with local breweries and WNC wineries, and be open during peek hours throughout the week.
Potential customers who have heard of mead, most typically associate this honey-wine beverage with either Festivals, Folktales or shows like Vikings or Game of Thrones. What better reason to be in Asheville, right. Well there’s now more to mead!
These shows have certainly helped bring what’s said to be the oldest alcohol known to man back into the limelight; however, there are many other reasons why people enjoy drinking mead. AMMA data show that mead’s explosive growth crushes that of every other alcoholic beverage—even beer.
It’s a gluten-free product, made from honey and therefore has an element of sustainability tied to its production. As meaderies increase the demand for honey to produce mead, there will naturally be an increase in the number of bee apiaries in North Carolina and the nation. This is all great for the bee population!
In addition to completing some on-line research and discovering many millennial women prefer wine over beer, we also found many millennials are looking for variety and a fun and unique experience. Men also like going to their local brewery or meadery, having a drink, and then deciding on what they plan to bring home.
Based on this research, we think it’s important for a meadery, to offer as much variety as possible to its customers. Variety means beverages with lower and higher alcohol content, semi-sweet and off-dry options, as well as offering customers tastings and a chance to buy a glass rather than a bottle.
In order to test our product, get a pulse of the local market, and find out whether people like mead, we decided to hold our own blind tasting. We offered three of our varieties (traditional, strawberry and an oaked version) in a tasting line-up with other meads being sold in North Carolina.
During the tasting, we asked all 25 guests to answer questions on an autonomous form related to their preferred alcoholic beverage, gender, age, and if they’ve tried mead before. We also asked them to rank the mead in order of preference and comment on what they liked and didn’t like about the mead.
This small mead tasting revealed that women tended to like the mead varieties that were lower in alcohol content, lighter and fruity. Some women liked the stronger oaked option over the strawberry but these were both their favorites.
All of the millennial-aged women liked mead and would drink mead again, and the GenXers were more enthusiastic about drinking mead than the Baby-Boomers. However some of the boomers like the oaked variety and would drink this again.
Men seemed to enjoy the higher alcohol content meads, off-dry meads and the oaked variety. Again, the Millennial and GenX men agreed they would drink mead again. The older-aged boomers were not sure whether they liked mead over their preferred beverage, and indicated wanting a weaker, lighter variety.
What was most interesting is that people were commenting on the overall all experience. Several of our guests made a point to share how fun this event was for them, and that they enjoyed the “tasting experience” and liked combining the tasting with a social gathering.
After talking with a local wine-shop owner who claims some of the local meads he carries don’t have the same shelf-life that other European meads do, we could see the importance in marketing aged mead. In fact, there are some aged spiced meads being sold nationally for top dollar, so this is a market that may be untapped in this area.
As another aspect of research for this analysis, was comparing business hours and some of the North Carolina meadery’s variety of products being sold, and how the mead is sold.
The category based on “variety” for this market research included three main points: mead flavor and alcohol percentage, whether sold in both bottle and glass, if on-line sales are an option and whether the meaderies are offering aged varieties.
Only three of the six meadmakers we selected from North Carolina carry more than 10 varieties, and many were around the same alcohol level. Only one other meadery is marketing a variety that is best when aged, but most don’t sell aged mead.
We found only one business in the western part of the state that is open during the week and later hours on weekend nights, but it’s a cider and mead company that only sells carbonated versions by the glass.
Many of the mead businesses are open around 12 or 1 pm (which is fine) and close around 8 pm. However, tourists flock to Asheville throughout the year and arrive for week-long, and week-end adventures. For this reason, we feel there is a market in Asheville to stay open later and longer.
After discovering through research many Millennials and GenXers like tastings, and also enjoy sitting in a fun and welcoming environment socializing with friends, we feel there is an underserved market to sell mead in Asheville by the bottle and glass.
Our business plan also allows for extended hours so people can come during the week after work, for a retreat or even toursists can enjoy our Mead Hall most days of the week while on vacation.
Asheville is a popular destination for people interested in brewery tours, bachelor and bachelorette parties and other celebratory events. A step-back-in time Mead Hall will be another option for tourists flocking to the city, and will also help to boost awareness of mead locally. It will be a place where residents can also come to buy or try mead.