Nielsen: Beer Category Off-Premise Sales Up 19% for the Week Ending April 4

Total beer category dollar sales in off-premise retailers reaccelerated slightly for the week ending April 4, increasing 19%, to $836.3 million, compared to the same one-week period in 2019, according to market research firm Nielsen.

Beer category dollar sales are down from the peak stock-up week (March 15-21) when sales increased 42%, to $967.1 million, but the week ending April 4 outperformed the weeks ending March 14 and March 28, when dollar sales were up 14% ($791.9 million) and 17% ($817.8 million), respectively.

Nielsen noted that the week ending March 21 also marked the peak for the number of households making purchases, the amount those households spent per trip and the number of total trips made.

Although the number of households making purchases for the week of March 28 was lower than the week ending March 21, 20% more households made purchases than the same week in 2019.

As for the week ending April 4, dollar sales of total craft (+15.3%) and independent craft (+15.8%) beer were nearly identical.

Brewers Association chief economist Bart Watson also shared off-premise sales data from market research firm Nielsen for BA-defined craft, which showed dollar sales increased 16.5% in off-premise retailers for the week ending April 5. Over the last four weeks, craft dollar sales increased 21.1%, but Watson cautioned that despite these off-premise gains, “most breweries are down in sales, since the majority of their sales and revenue comes onsite or from on-premise.”

Meanwhile, hard seltzer dollar sales remained in excess of 300%, while Mexican imports increased 17.3%, the firm reported. Also of note, “fringe segments,” as Nielsen called them, such as hard kombucha (+74%) and ready-to-drink cocktails (+110%) are outpacing their pre-COVID-19 growth rates. However, canned and tetra wine growth has slowed, Nielsen said.

Nielsen also shared highlights from the four weeks of stocking up that ended on March 28. According to Nielsen, growth was driven by an increase in the number of households purchasing beer and an increase in their overall spending, as there were 19% more households buying beer, FMBs and cider and those households were spending 13% more than they did during the month of March than in March 2019.

As for hard seltzer, the number of buyers of hard seltzers in March 2020 increased 400% compared to March 2019. However, that isn’t indicative of the hard seltzer category picking up new buyers, Nielsen added.

“It mostly likely represents the increase in buyers that hard seltzers picked up through the remaining months of 2019,” according to the firm. “In other words, they probably didn’t purchase hard seltzers in March 2019, but most likely started drinking seltzers in the summer or later months of 2019, and continue to be seltzer buyers now. And, they want to make sure their refrigerator is stocked with seltzers while they shelter-in-place.”

As for craft beer, the growth in March 2020 was about an increase in dollar spend per buyer versus an increase in households purchasing, Nielsen said.

“This most likely is the loyal craft consumer wanting to make sure they are stocked up on their favorite craft beer, and also represents the shift in purchasing for on-premise and breweries to the off-premise channels,” the firm said.

The increase in large pack sizes was driven by purchases of 24- and 30-packs in March 2020. Nielsen noted that the dollar spend per buyer on these larger packs was “actually flat,” indicating more people buying these packs than they typically would in March.

Finally, the dollar sales growth rates for wine (+32%) and spirits (+33%) continue to outpace beer. However, the beer category’s total dollar sales exceeds those of the other alcoholic beverage categories.

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