Beer Institute Shares Latest Packaging Insights

Draft beer now accounts for nearly two-thirds of all on-premise beer volume, according to the Beer Institute’s (BI) annual State-Level Packaging Report, released today.

Last year, 61.7 percent of all beer sold on-premise was poured on draft — a 1.8 point share gain — which the BI said is the highest on-premise draft share ever recorded.

“That’s a huge share gain in a single year,” Beer Institute chief economist Michael Uhrich told Brewbound.

According to the BI, a national trade association representing the interests of the U.S. brewing industry, much of the on-premise draft beer share gains are being driven by the so-called “own-premise” phenomenon of direct-to-consumer sales at brewery taprooms and brewpubs.

Draft beer accounted for 10.6 percent of the more than 204 million barrels of beer shipped throughout the U.S. in 2017, the BI reported.

Even though more beer is now being filled into kegs, the majority of beer shipped to U.S. wholesalers in 2017 was packaged in aluminum cans (55.8 percent) and glass bottles (33.2 percent).

Meanwhile, brewing companies based in the U.S. packaged 62 percent of their beer in aluminum cans in 2017, and aluminum cans have gained share of the domestic beer segment for six consecutive years, the BI said.

Despite a growing number of U.S. brewers packaging their beer in aluminum cans, the BI said aluminum cans have lost market share of total U.S. beer sales due to the growing popularity of imported beers, which are primarily packaged in glass bottles.

“Imports gained a lot of share last year, and so that mix shift toward import manifests as an overall share loss for cans,” Uhrich said. “But it’s not because people are shifting away from cans. It’s quite the opposite. Cans gained share of imports, and they gained share in domestics, but they lost share overall.”

Within the aluminum can format, Uhrich said larger packages such as 16 oz. 4-packs and 32 oz. Crowlers are also gaining share.

“Part of that is definitely the shift to 16 oz. 4-packs for craft and Crowlers,” he said. “But also there’s a shift away from on-premise to off-premise for mainstream beer, and the channels that are gaining share are ones, often, where those larger cans in mainstream and economy brands are also very popular.”

Sales of beer at U.S. convenience stores are growing, Uhrich said, which has led to an uptick in sales for larger aluminum packages.

“When convenience gains share, it’s not surprising to see that larger cans such as 16 and 24 oz. cans gaining share,” he said, noting that those accounts typically stock larger, single-serve offerings.

The BI said glass bottles lost 0.4 share points in 2017, but those losses were half as much as they were in 2016 even as more consumers shifted spending toward imported beers packaged in glass.

Smaller bottles — between 7 and 12 oz. — make up more than 90 percent of the beer packaged in glass, the BI added.

Shipments of large-format bottles accounted for 7.1 percent of the glass bottle segment in 2017, and the BI said it is tracking continued declines for that package.

“A few years ago it kind of looked like large-format bottles were the way the winds were blowing,” Uhrich said. “But now it seems that retailers are reallocating that space toward smaller bottles that move off the shelves a little more rapidly.”

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