Friday 4-Pack: Beer Sales Up 4.6 Percent; IPA Still King of Craft


Yesterday was National Beer Day and that’s as good an excuse as any to dive into a steinful of the latest U.S. beer statistics.

After all, throughout the week, our inboxes overflowed with pitches from every corner of the industry: among others, market research firm Nielsen marked the occasion by sharing the latest category growth figures on its blog, while industry trade group The Beer Institute hosted its own “state of the industry” webinar complete with segment, channel and style breakdowns.

There was certainly no shortage of insights for industry professionals to chug down as they celebrated former President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s April 7, 1933 signing of the Cullen-Harrison Act, which legalized the sale of 4 percent ABV beer in the U.S.

But in the interest of identifying the most important takeaways, we’ve distilled everything into our own Friday 4-pack of stats.

Dollar Sales are Still Growing

U.S. consumers are continuing to trade up, opting to spend more money on premium products. For the 52-week period ending March 19, total off-premise beer dollar sales were up 4.6 percent, according to Nielsen. During the same period, both craft and import dollar sales, which typically carry a higher price point, were up 14 percent and 10.7 percent, respectively.

According to Beer Institute chief economist Michael Uhrich, sales of import and craft beer grew 6.2 percent and 8.9 percent, respectively, in 2015, and consumers purchased a combined 1.3 billion servings of both styles last year. The two segments gained a combined two share points of overall beer volumes, or about 4 million barrels of the 206 million total barrels of beer sold in the U.S last year.

Imports and craft beer now collectively make up 28.4 percent of total U.S. beer volumes, while sales of mainstream offerings, which total 56.5 percent of all beer sold, dipped 3.1 percent last year.

The Beer Institute also estimates that U.S. consumers spent $111 billion dollars on beer in 2015.

Variety Packs, IPA and Seasonal Styles Make Up 50 Percent of Craft Volume


IPA is still the king of craft, with 26 percent volume share of the category, according to market research firm IRI Worldwide. Dollars sales in U.S. supermarkets, meanwhile, are up more than 25 percent year-to-date, and $3 of every $10 spent on craft beer at food and grocery stores is now spent on IPA.

Seasonal offerings, meanwhile, are becoming a less important part of the business. Only 40 percent of regular beer drinkers said their favorite beers change with the season, according to Nielsen. That would seem to match seasonal trends IRI has tracked this year, with dollar sales for the segment down 3.8 percent in U.S. supermarkets year-to-date through March 20.

Sales of craft variety packs are also up 1.4 percent in U.S. supermarkets, according to IRI.

Stylistically, when looking at total beer consumption by region, IPA is the most popular type of beer in the Pacific Northwest states of Oregon, Washington and Idaho. American lagers, however, are most popular throughout the Midwest and seasonal offerings are most popular in the Northeast.

Millennial Mania Waning?

Sure, all of those confused 21-29 year-olds who can’t make up their minds and aren’t brand loyal might appear to be the holy grail for marketers, but it’s actually the “thirty-something” beer drinkers who are most important for overall category growth, according to Nielsen.

95 percent of 30-39 year-old respondents in a recent Harris poll believe it is a “great time to be a beer lover.” 85 percent of those respondents enjoy trying new types of beer and 76 percent are “passionate fans” of local beer.

“Perhaps this age group is old enough to appreciate the diverse selection of beer that is currently available compared to those who are less experienced with the category,” Nielsen wrote on its blog.

And according to Uhrich, who cited 2015 Nielsen survey data during yesterday’s webinar and described millennial disloyalty has a “threat” to the beer industry, nearly 20 percent of promiscuous 21-34 year old drinkers said they purchased 10 or more beer brands within the last year.

Going Mobile


Photo Credit: Next Glass

New research from marketing agency XenoPsi, which works with clients such as Nike, ExxonMobil and Evan Williams, suggests that smartphones are a critical part of a beer drinkers’ shopping experience.

The company’s study, “At-Shelf Decision Making in the Beer Industry,” which sampled 1,000 consumers in January, found that 49 percent of survey respondents had “used their smartphones while shopping in-store.”

18 percent of those using a smartphone while shopping reported buying more beer than usual and 78 percent bought a beer they’d never purchased before.

“Beer buyers have come to rely on their smartphones as a critical source of information during the in-store purchase process,” XenoPsi founder MichaelAaron Flicker said in a press release. “When they tap into the wealth of information available to them – through search, apps or their social networks – they are making a more informed purchase decision, which is leading them to new trial and greater overall purchases.”

Worth noting:

  • Year-to-date tax paid estimates through February, as tracked by the Beer Institute, are up 2 percent over last year to nearly 26 million barrels.
  • Year-to-date MULC beer dollar sales are up 4.9 percent, according to IRI.