Bump Williams: Beer Category Dollar Sales Up 32% For Week Ending May 3

Off-premise dollar sales of beer continued to accelerate during the week ending May 3, as beer category sales increased 32.3%, to $952.3 million, during the one-week period, according to data from market research firm IRI shared by Bump Williams Consulting (BWC).

For context of just how big the week ending May 3 ended up being, dollar sales were nearly as strong as the July 4 holiday week in 2019, which raked in more than $1 billion, BWC noted.

Although the week ending May 3 included sales leading up to the Cinco de Mayo holiday, BWC theorized that it wasn’t just the holiday driving sales but also “sunshine, cabin-fever setting in, humans wanting to get ‘social’ again and our innate desire to celebrate living’” beginning to show.

To consumers, beer has proven to be among the most essential products during the COVID-19 time frame in the U.S., ranking as the top growth category across all fast moving consumer goods, besting other beverages such soft drinks, FMBs/cider and still wine, as well as beef, bacon, ice cream and chicken eggs, said BWC, citing market research firm Nielsen.

Beer category dollar sales throughout the COVID-19 timeline (March 8 through May 3) have increased 22.6%, to nearly $7.4 billion, compared to the same time last year, according to IRI data shared by BWC.

Market research firm Nielsen also shared scan data for the week ending May 2, which showed beer, FMBs and cider dollar sales increased 28%, to $966.8 million. The week ending May 2 trailed only the peak stock-up week, which ended March 21, and marked consecutive weeks of dollar sales of more than $900 million. Here’s a look back at the previous seven weeks during the COVID-19 sales rush:

  • +14%, to $791.9 million, for the week ending March 14;
  • +42%, to $968.7 million, for the week ending March 21;
  • +17%, to $817.8 million, for the week ending March 28;
  • +19%, to $836.3 million, for the week ending April 4;
  • +19.4%, to $861 million, for the week ending April 11;
  • +12.3%, to $856 million, for the week ending April 18;
  • +20.4%, to $909.5 million, for the week ending April 25.

Although the off-premise growth has been impressive, the sales increases in off-premise retailers haven’t been enough to make up for the loss of on-premise sales, and craft brands have been disproportionately affected by COVID-19 shutting down bars, restaurants, taprooms and tasting rooms. According to Nielsen, total alcohol sales would have to maintain at least 22% volume growth rates in off-premise channels to compensate for the loss of on-premise sales. The beer category remains below that threshold, with an off-premise COVID year-to-date volume growth rate of 16.2%. Nevertheless, the prospects of that happening have improved due to increased sales in recent weeks.

The latest one-week period 3 was good to every top 15 brewery, as each brand posted at least double-digit dollar sales gains in off-premise retailers, BWC said.

Nielsen added that the top 15 brand families (ranked by pre-COVID dollars) made up 78% of total category dollar sales during the latest one-week period. Every one of the top 25 brands have now posted positive growth rates during the COVID-19 period in the U.S. compared to the same time last year.

For the largest U.S. beer manufacturers — Anheuser-Busch InBev and Molson Coors Beverage Company — dollar sales growth exceeded 20% for the week ending May 3. The off-premise gains for A-B and Molson Coors have pushed those companies’ year-to-date sales “well ahead” of where they finished 2019, with A-B up 9% (vs. +1% during 2019) and Molson Coors up 6% (vs. -1% in 2019), respectively, according to BWC.

A-B led the top growth vendors of the week, trailed by Mark Anthony Brands, the maker of White Claw and Mike’s Hard Lemonade. However, the White Claw brand family was the top growing brand family of the week, with dollar sales up 375.9%, followed by the A-B’s Bud and Michelob brand families.

White Claw alone accounted for 18% of total beer category dollar sales growth for the week ending May 2, Nielsen reported. The overall hard seltzer segment contributed about 30% of beer category dollar sales growth, and a growth rate of 362% for the latest one-week period. The seltzer segment now accounts for 8.8% of total beer category dollars, and could reach 10% by June, Nielsen reported.

Dollar sales of imports were up 26.7%, to nearly $196.8 million, making the segment the second best selling segment of the week, trailing just premium offerings, which were up 18.7%, to $280.9 million.

Hard seltzers continued growing triple digits, up 367.3%, to $81.1 million for the week.

Dollar sales of craft beer offerings increased 30.5%, to $105.5 million. All of the top 15 craft brands posted positive dollar sales growth last week, with Shock Top Belgian White in the black and the only brand posting single-digit growth. All other top craft brands increased sales at least double digits.

Other notes from Nielsen:

  • Total alcohol off-premise dollar sales increased 32% for the week ending May 2.
  • Spirits led the week, with dollar sales up 38.6%, followed by wine (+35.8%) and beer/FMBs/cider (+28.1%).
  • The convenience channel posted its strongest sales week to date, up 24.2% compared to the same time in 2019. Driving that growth were hard seltzers (+489%), Mexican imports (+35.8%) and premium offerings (+30%).
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