IRI: Craft Continues Double-Digit Dollar Sales Growth

If IRI data is any kind of indicator, the craft beer category is on its way to yet another year of double-digit dollar sales growth in 2013.

With just six weeks left in the year, Brewbound examined recent IRI reports in an attempt to spot some trends. A closer look into the data revealed some interesting takeaways.

Through October 6, dollar sales for California-based Firestone Walker are up 38 percent year-to-date in off-premise multi-outlet and convenience (MULC) dollar sales — which includes food, drug, club, dollar and military stores. This is despite the fact the dollar sales for the brewery’s flagship Double Barrel Ale had declined 6.4 percent this year.

David Walker, Firestone’s co-founder, explains it as a “sign of the times.”

“We have a broad range of beers that have slowly caught up with DBA and are challenging DBA as the top dog,” he said in an email to Brewbound. “Without being too reactionary we try to listen to our customers and make the beers available that they are asking for.”

“It’s not the easiest path but one that’s working for us and keeping our customers smiling,” he added.

Walker said Firestone is very much a “draft heavy brewery,” however, and that the company’s “Jacks” — Union Jack, Double Jack and Wookey Jack — are increasingly popular and providing much of the company’s growth in 2013.

While new brands might be paving the way for Firestone, Lagunitas Brewing is finding success in new distribution with Little Sumpin’ Sumpin’. Among the top 50 craft packages sold, the beer — in 6-pack bottles — enjoyed the most dramatic growth. Dollar sales are up 187.7 in MULC, through Nov. 3, according to IRI.

Lagunitas COO Todd Stevenson said the impressive growth of Sumpin’ Sumpin’ is due, in large part, to the expanded distribution of the brand. While same-store sales of the brew have accounted for about 34 percent of off-premise sales this year, the remainder (about 66 percent) is from new points of distribution, Stevenson said. That’s not to say that same-store sales aren’t contributing to the growth, either. In the last four months, those accounts are up 28 percent with much of the growth concentrated in California and Illinois, the brand’s two biggest markets according to Stevenson.

Flagship Growth:

Lagunitas IPA isn’t alone. There are other stalwart flagships benefiting craft’s growth in 2013, which IRI pegs at 19 percent through Nov. 3. Sales of Sierra Nevada Pale Ale and Samuel Adams Boston Lager in MULC are up 10.1 percent and 10.4 percent, respectively, year-to-date. Dollar sales of Gambrinus-owned Shiner Bock are up 12.7 percent and even sales of New Belgium’s Fat Tire, which had been flat, have rebounded somewhat, up 2.4 percent year-to-date.

Key Packages and Styles:

While more craft brewers continue adding cans to the mix, glass still dominates. Only Sierra Nevada’s Pale Ale in 12-pack cans, cracked the top 50 craft packages. It’s currently the 19th best selling package overall, and dollar sales are up 78.7 percent through Nov. 3. The brewery began canning in 2011.

“Pale cans seem to have a few things going for them,” said Ryan Arnold, communications manager at Sierra Nevada, when asked why they are selling so well. “They strike the sustainability chord, which is a huge pillar of ours.”

Despite the success of Sierra’s pale offering, the no. 1 selling craft style through Nov. 3 is still IPA. Dollar sales are up 43.9 percent.

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