Earlier this month, consumer packaged-goods giant Nestle SA (NASDAQOTH: NSRGY) announced a deal to snap up a controlling stake in upscale coffee-purveyor Blue Bottle Coffee Company for a sum reported to be near $500 million.Â The deal followsÂ Constellation Brand’s (NYSE: STZ) acquisition of rapidly growing Florida craft-beer brewer Funky Buddha Brewery in August, also for an undisclosed amount. If Constellation’s $1 billion acquisition of west coast craft-beer pioneer Ballast Point Brewery in late 2015 is any indication, Funky Buddha’s owners were well compensated for their shares.Â
The owners of Blue Bottle plan to stay on board and help guide the introduction of their products to a much wider audience. While one can hardly blame entrepreneurs for cashing in equity at a handsome valuation, news outlets have reported that some patrons of both Blue Bottle, like the customers of Funky Buddha before them, are nonetheless crying foul.Â
The hipsters and the suits
This type of backlash seems to be a recurring pattern when craft upstarts get bought out by multibillion-dollar multinationals. As the craft coffee and beer industries blossom, the fortunes of one product over another are often cemented by hipsters, who can exercise a proprietary sort of love over the foodstuffs they consume.
Now, not everyone who enjoys micro-lot coffee brewed via a siphon method qualifies as a hipster — not by a long shot. Yet it’s apparent that a generation of consumers has arisen that prizes uniqueness, high-quality ingredients, and expertise in the making of products that count for experiences in and of themselves. Hipsters are core customers in the world of craft.
On the other end of the economic equation stand the executives of global consumer-oriented corporations, the “suits.” Hipsters fear that suits will, in…