SPUR 2019: Managing Authenticity and Advocating Artisanship: Craft Spirits in the Global Marketplace


This project will examine how craft spirit makers, and related stakeholders, manage and market authenticity in the marketplace. How do they communicate their product's fidelity to craftsmanship and traditional knowledge to different customer bases? How do they position themselves in relation to brands owned by large liquor companies? What challenges do they face in light of the growing global popularity of the craft spirit category? What happens to a brand's authenticity when it is acquired by a large liquor company? The aims of this exploratory project are:

  1. To shed light on the growing craft spirit industry as industry leaders navigate increased competition with transnational liquor companies;
  2. To build on a growing body of consumers' perceptions of authenticity in different organizational realms (e.g. craft spirits vs. craft brewing);
  3. To better understand the challenges of a new market category that is based on an ethos of smallness.

Student Role

The student would assist in coordinating interviews with local craft industry actors. They would also transcribe interviews and help with the coding process by identifying themes that emerge in the interview transcripts. Other activities may include writing case study reports of larger craft brands based on trade reports, press releases, and company websites. The student will also compile data and produce graphs charting the growth of various sectors in the craft industry.

Student Learning Outcomes & Benefits

Involvement will enhance a student’s preparation for graduate or professional school by providing them with direct experience in qualitative research in the social sciences. They will sharpen critical thinking and writing skills, improve time management, and practice professional communication as they interact with local craft producers—These are also demonstrated skills that employers value and seek.

Sarita Gaytán
Associate Professor

College of Social & Behavioral Science
Division of Gender Studies
School for Cultural & Social Transformation

In addition to regular communication about the research process, my hope is to prepare the student to present some of the findings that they’ve made along the way at undergraduate research conferences and symposia here on campus. Other types of support would include letters of recommendation for programs to further develop their research skills, undergraduate research awards, and graduate school admissions. I would also assist the student in their quest to develop their own independent research project for UROP or an undergraduate honors thesis.