The category is undergoing a sea change. For example Budweiser, which according to Beer Marketer’s Insights had ranked as America’s most popular beer until 2001 and one of its top three since the 1970s, has fallen in popularity among domestic beer consumers.
Vivien Azer, managing director and senior research analyst with Cowen and Co. in New York City, used the word “malaise” to describe the category in 2017, where volumes fell by nearly 1%. “Shifts to distilled spirits and wine continue to be a category headwind, as younger, cross-category consumers continue to replace older beer category loyalists.”
Consumers aged 21-34, she added, were eight percentage points less likely to prefer beer than their 35-to-44-year-old counterparts.
Eric Schmidt, director of alcohol research for Beverage Marketing Corp., said craft brews are doing well because consumers are embracing authenticity with a good brand story and local and increased flavor selection.
David Collins, president of Birmingham, Ala.-based DC Oil Inc., which operates a dozen Quick Shop c-stores in central Alabama, said his beer category was up slightly in 2017. “I guess you would almost call it flat, but up a little bit. Wine, on the other hand, has done outstanding.”
Interestingly, the biggest impact on beer sales at a couple of Quick Shop stores came as the result of local legislation that legalized Sunday sales. “Those counties actually went wet on Sundays; prior to that, we could not sell beer on Sundays. That is happening a lot in the state of Alabama and throughout the South.”
As for the top brands, said Collins, they don’t change. “I don’t see that, but there is a constant changing and mixing in the microbrews and crafts. There were a lot of new products that came in in 2017.”
2018 BEGINS WELL
U.S. beer dollar sales increased 3% through the first four weeks of 2018, according to retail data provider IRI Worldwide. The Chicago-based market research firm reported total U.S. dollar sales of about $2.2 billion through Jan. 28 in the multi-outlet and convenience channels (MULC).
IRI data revealed dollar sales for several notable craft brands also grew, including Lagunitas IPA (2.1%), Sweetwater 420 Pale Ale (6.3%), Founders All Day IPA (15.3 %), Firestone Walker 805 Blonde Ale (15.5%), Bell’s Two Hearted Ale (20.5%), New Belgium Rampant Imperial IPA (71.7%) and Kona Big Wave Golden Ale (49.7%).
Collins concurred with those who see the growth of craft beer as a national trend, and one on which consumers are insisting. “There are more and more beer drinkers changing and younger drinkers are going toward the crafts.”