Business, Products, Regulations

Are we ready for a “Craft” funeral industry?

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I can remember going to my first couple of craft breweries.  It was in the mid-1990’s and one I went to was in downtown Fargo, North Dakota, prior to attending a basketball game at their downtown civic arena.  Then later, I was in Hawaii with my wife and going for dinner found us at the Kona Brewing Company — I found them an interesting concept.

Fast-forward almost 25 years and you will find out that craft beer sales in the United States are almost one-quarter of all beer sales in the country and, despite going backwards in 2020, are expected to gain another $48 billion of sales receipt up through 2025.  That $48 billion used to be going to the big national brewers like Anheuser Busch, Coors, and Miller.  Today, that revenue is broken up among almost 9,000 microbreweries, brewpubs, taprooms, and off-site regional craft breweries.

By the way, craft beers sales declined 9% in 2020, but it is believed to be caused by the pandemic and lack of on-site drinking opportunities more than anything.

So, telling you that in the preamble brings me to this recently published article entitled, “DIY funerals:  Your family can be your own funeral director; if you want.”  The article poses the question and tells of instances where family members preferred taking care of their own loved one. . . at least in some ways.  It also discusses if this will be more than a passing fad.

Rob Goff, the executive director of the Washington State Funeral Directors Association is quoted in the article in several places.  Goff  points out that “doing it yourself” is not a new concept — families cared for and buried their own dead until the U.S. funeral industry came into its own in the 20th century.

Goff states, “Most folks are not doing it to save money.  Most folks are doing it because they have something specific they want to have done.. . . . A lot of families will come in with the idea that they do want to do it themselves.  After talking, they start to realize there is a lot that is involved with planning a gathering. Funerals typically take place within a few days after death, if not immediately after death. Funeral directors are very capable and used to making these plans and fulfilling these ideas on a quick and timely basis.. . . . The funeral director’s role is to facilitate. It’s not to lead. It’s not to have a funeral at the funeral home per se.  A good funeral provider will say, ‘Yes, let’s figure how we do that.'””

Tom Anderson
Funeral Director Daily

On those points I agree with Goff.  And, the article points out that many families simply want a home visitation, an immediate burial with no embalming, or on the other hand a delayed burial in order to spend more time with their deceased loved one.  The article also points out that many families simply seem that the laws of death certificates, burial permits, and notarized statements stop lots of things they would like to do.

Now, I’m not for an “anything goes” death care process because there is public health and public safety involved with the handling of a deceased human remains.  But there probably are things funeral professionals can do to allow for more family involvement at times in the process. . . .and I think that is a great place to work from which allows you to retain this clientele.

Holly Pruett is an advocate for the “Do it Yourself” movement and serves as a celebrant and consultant to those who want more involvement in the death care process.  One of the things she states in the article is that those who follow this movement have a more meaningful celebration when they have a “hands-on engagement” in the process.  I certainly think leading funeral homes can help families with that process.

Back in the early 1990’s the national beer distributors paid very little attention to the rise of the craft brewers and in 2019 that little industry had grown to total about 25% of all beer sales. . . .  sales taken from the national companies —  with more expected to come.  Comparing beer and death care is not easy nor not even rational. . . however, I believe that if funeral directors, managers, and owners, can acknowledge that today’s consumers want something a little different and many times want to “help” in the process, death care can keep revenue in their mainstream establishments instead of letting it all siphon off to what otherwise may be up and coming niche enterprises.

I would advocate —- “Keep an open mind and help your families where you can. . . . . even if their choice is not in your personal wheelhouse.”

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