2014 State of the Industry: Beer

Consumers seek flavor in beer segments

July 11, 2014

When it comes to the beer segment, more consumers are seeking upscale offerings. Andrea Riberi, senior vice president of alcohol beverages with Nielsen, New York, told Beverage Industry in its March issue that super-premium domestic beers, which include brands like MillerCoors’ Blue Moon and Anheuser-Busch’s Bud Light Lime and Michelob Ultra, gained 2 percent in case volume last year.

Although at a higher price point than other brands, super-premium domestic beers tend to offer more flavor and sometimes more alcohol content, Riberi noted. For example, earlier this year, MillerCoors introduced Miller Fortune, which contains 6.9 percent alcohol by volume.

The interest in more flavorful beers also has helped fuel imported beer growth, said Edward Hsyeh, U.S. research analyst for Chicago-based Euromonitor International, in the March issue. Like super-premium beers, imported beers tend to be priced higher than most domestic beers, but consumers are willing to pay that extra amount to experience beers that are different than the domestic beers with which most consumers already are familiar, he said. Last year, imported beers performed better than domestic beers, experiencing 4 percent volume growth and 7 percent value growth in the term, he noted.

Much of the current import growth is being driven by Mexican beers, noted Danelle Kosmal, vice president of client services at Nielsen, in the March issue. “When we look at their trends for 2013, they were growing twice as quickly as total imports,” she said. “Mexican import growth was at 11.1 percent last year, while [total] import growth was at 5.3 percent.” Some of this growth can be attributed to the United States’ growing Hispanic population as well as the aggressive marketing efforts of Mexican beer brands, she noted.

For more of a domestic uniqueness, some beer consumers are turning to limited-edition seasonal craft beers as well as craft beer variety packs. “They’re driving a lot of the growth [in the craft beer segment],” Nielsen’s Riberi said. Seasonals accounted for 24 percent of craft beer growth, while variety packs made up 15 percent, she noted.

Adding to the seasonal variety pack segment, The Boston Beer Co. released its Beers of Summer variety pack. Available through August, the multipack contains Samuel Adams Summer Ale, Porch Rocker, Belgian Session, Blueberry Hill Lager, White Lantern and Boston Lager beers. 

Flavored malt beverage (FMB) and hard cider consumers also place flavor at the forefront of their product expectations, but in a slightly different way. Most FMB consumers are younger, female consumers as well as Hispanic and African-American consumers, all of whom prefer sweeter flavor profiles, according to Euromonitor’s Hsyeh and Nielsen’s Kosmal. 

Among FMBs, Anheuser-Busch’s Bud Light Lime “Rita” portfolio topped Chicago-based Information Resources Inc.’s (IRI’s) list of top-selling PABs for the 52 weeks ending April 20 in total U.S. multi-outlets. This spring, the brand added Raz-Ber-Rita and Mang-O-Rita flavors.

 Hard cider brewers also are experimenting with fruit flavors to add more excitement to the mix. Nielsen’s Riberi noted in the March issue that many different fruits besides apple, including blueberry, pear, pumpkin and peach, have been included in hard ciders, but even more flavors could be on the way.  “I think we’ll see blackberries, apricots, rhubarb, elderberry, pomegranate — all different fruits,” she said. “As we see the flavor trends across beer, I think we’re also going to see it in cider.”  

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