NBWA’s Beer Purchasers’ Index Shows Lowest-Ever Craft Reading; Nielsen CGA Says Restaurant Takeout Orders Increasing

Craft beer purchase intent among wholesalers has hit an all-time low, according to the National Beer Wholesalers Association (NBWA).

In the NBWA’s April Beer Purchasers’ Index, craft beer had a reading of 14, the segment’s lowest ever and the lowest reading of any segment in this month’s survey. In April 2019, beer purchasers gave craft beer a reading of 59. The total beer market reading was 35.

The monthly survey polls beer purchasers at wholesalers nationwide on their purchases. A reading below 50 indicates that a segment is contracting. Similarly, a reading above 50 shows that a segment is expanding. Data was collected between April 6 and April 20.

“After beginning the year with expanding beer orders and stalling in March, the BPI registered a reading of 35 for April 2020, indicating a contracting beer market,” the NBWA wrote. “With on-premise temporarily closed around the country, the high-end segments of imports and craft are reporting record low readings in April.”

Imports’ reading of 32 is the first time that segment has ever read below 50. The cider segment had a reading of 17, indicating that segment is contracting, particularly when compared to its April 2019 reading of 47.

Three segments had higher readings in April 2020 than April 2019: premium lights, premium regular and below premium. However, all three segments’ readings were below 50.

“More importantly, these three segments are reporting higher index readings relative to high-end segments of craft and imports,” the NBWA wrote.

The only segment to indicate expansion with a reading greater than 50 is FMBs and seltzers with a reading of 72. This is down slightly from its April 2019 reading of 79, but down even more than its readings in the 80s and 90s from prior months.

Nielsen CGA: Restaurant Takeout Orders in April Were up 69% Over March

As state-mandated shutdowns of on-premise dining due to the COVID-19 pandemic continue, consumer behavior may be adapting to a world where takeout is the only option.

Nielsen CGA, the market research firm’s on-premise channel data arm, said the number of checks at tracked accounts for the week ending April 25 increased 69% over the week ending March 28. Meanwhile, dollar sales velocity increased 42% from March to April.

“Overall, the on-premise trade has shown it has started to adapt to current market conditions,” Nielsen CGA wrote in a report.

However, these increases are tiny bright spots in an otherwise dismal marketplace. The week ending April 25 saw sales velocity down 68% compared to pre-COVID times. This marks an increase from the beginning of April, when sales velocity was down 75% compared to pre-COVID levels, which could show that “the market has begun to flatten out,” Nielsen CGA wrote.

Since consumers have begun to adjust to a new normal of eating all of their meals at home, the number of people who have included beer, wine or spirits with a takeout order increased to 14% for the week ending April 25, up from 9% over the two weeks ending April 11. Tacking alcohol onto a takeout order is more common among millennials and older members of Gen Z, with 28% of adults ages 21-34 having done so.

More than a quarter of consumers — 28% — told Nielsen CGA that they’ll return to bars and restaurants once restrictions are lifted if establishments “demonstrate they can facilitate social distancing;” and 23% said they’ll return if the number of infections does not increase.

Meanwhile, 22% of respondents said they would return to bars and restaurants as soon as they reopen.

Once on-premise retailers reopen, half of respondents told Nielsen CGA they would like to see bars and restaurants offer fewer tables to foster social distancing, 49% said they would like to see additional hygiene programs in place, and 41% said they would like for takeout and delivery options to remain available.

Half of respondents said they plan to drink and eat at on-premise establishments with the same or greater frequency than they visited pre-COVID.

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