Continuing what was seen during the recession, consumers are either buying more premium-priced beers or buying less beer overall, Jennifer Zegler, beverage analyst at Mintel, Chicago, told Beverage Industry in March. However, with price adjustments, brewers have seen dollar sales rise but not necessarily volume sales, she added. For example, the U.S. beer industry sold 2.9 billion 2.25-gallon cases of beer for $71.5 billion in 2008 compared with unit sales just shy of 2.8 billion 2.25-gallon cases for $78.1 billion in 2012, she said.
Domestic beer case sales were relatively flat for the 52 weeks ending May 19 in U.S. supermarkets, drug stores, gas and convenience stores, mass market retailers, military commissaries, and select club and dollar retail chains, according to Information Resources Inc. (IRI), a Chicago-based market research firm. However, dollar sales were up approximately 2 percent for more than $23 billion in sales. Across the domestic segments, super-premium fared the best with a 19.6 percent increase in dollar sales.
Adding to the super-premium segment, St. Louis-based Anheuser-Busch, a division of Anheuser-Busch InBev (AB InBev), released earlier this year Budweiser Black Crown, which has a slightly higher alcohol content at 6 percent alcohol by volume, the company says. MillerCoors’ craft and import division, Tenth and Blake Beer Co., also added variety to the segment with its fall seasonal Blue Moon Caramel Apple Spiced Ale in a variety pack. The brew’s flavor profile includes a blend of spice and caramel malts with highlights of crisp apples, the company says.
The import category saw dollar sales increase 3.4 percent for $4.2 billion in sales for the 52-week period ending May 19 in IRI-measured channels. Case sales also saw moderate increases at 2.5 percent, IRI reports.
The import category is experiencing the largest changes as AB InBev and Grupo Modelo, Mexico City, announced in June that AB InBev successfully completed its merger with Grupo Modelo in a transaction valued at $20.1 billion. Grupo Modelo’s brands include Corona Extra, Corona Light and Modelo Especial. A related transaction with Victor, N.Y.-based Constellation Brands, including the sale of Grupo Modelo’s Piedras Negras brewery, Grupo Modelo’s 50-percent stake in Crown Imports, and perpetual rights to Grupo Modelo’s brands in the United States, closed in June as well. Constellation acquired Grupo Modelo’s U.S. beer business from Anheuser-Busch InBev for approximately $4.75 billion.
Continuing to outpace the overall beer market, the craft beer category showed strong gains with case sales up 13 percent and dollar sales up 16.4 percent for more than $1.6 billion, according to IRI data. Although coming from a smaller base — Mintel estimates that craft beer accounted for $12 billion of the $78 billion U.S. beer market in 2012 — the craft beer category is introducing new consumers to new taste options and profiles and is challenging domestic and import beer categories to compete with those offerings, Zegler told Beverage Industry. The category’s biggest gains came from the Lagunitas brand family of Petaluma, Calif.-based Lagunitas Brewing Co. with approximately 58 percent growth in volume and 59 percent growth in dollar sales for $37.2 million.