Another year of double-digit craft beer growth is in the books. According market research firm IRI Worldwide, craft volume sales in key U.S. retail channels grew 18.8 percent in 2015 while dollar sales grew 23.4 percent, to more than $2.9 billion.
Total category-wide beer sales, meanwhile, were up just 2 percent in 2015 while total MULC dollar sales eclipsed $33 billion, according to the firm.
Last year’s growth represents a modest uptick from 2014, when craft volume sales were up 17 percent and dollar sales grew 20.1 percent, in IRI’s off-premise multi-outlet and convenience store (MULC) universe, which comprises grocery, drug, Wal-Mart, club, dollar, mass merchandiser and military stores.
“It’s really encouraging,” said John Bryant, the co-founder of No-Li brewhouse in Washington. “There is a lot of noise in the industry that is distracting for brewers, distributors and retailers. In the midst of all that chaos, there is opportunity and I think 2016 is going to be an even bigger growth year for craft. I am very bullish.”
Craft also had impressive gains in convenience stores, where year-to-date volume sales grew 26 percent and dollar sales grew 30 percent.
“The convenience store is becoming an accepted part of the culture,” said Bryant. “Now you can go pick up a six-pack or a 22 oz. bomber. Our c-store business has growth and we have some great distributor partners helping to drive that business. It’s been a nice channel in some of our more developed markets.”
The most talked about product in 2015 was, without a doubt, Small Town Brewery’s Not Your Father’s Root Beer (NYFRB). The brand got a serious boost in June when Pabst Brewing CEO Eugene Kashper and other principals acquired an undisclosed stake, scaled production and wheeled it out nationally.
With the help of Pabst’s investment, marketing muscle and a national sales force, NYFRB quickly catapulted to the no. 1 selling “craft” package of 2015. The company sold more than 1.95 million cases of Not Your Father’s Root Beer in 12 oz. glass bottles and generated more than $85 million in sales, according to IRI.
The next closest performer was Samuel Adams seasonal SKU (also a 12 oz. six-pack of glass bottles). Boston Beer sold 1.9 million cases, generating only $70 million in sales, a decline of 7.8 percent compared to 2014.
For the full year, however, Boston Beer actually sold a higher volume of Samuel Adams seasonal products across all package types — 4.1 million cases compared to 2.4 million for NYFRB. But it only generated $32 million more in total dollar sales. NYFRB, the no. 38 largest beer brand in the U.S. carried an average case price of $43.52, compared to $32.98 for Samuel Adams seasonals, and generated more than $104 million in total sales, according to IRI.
Other top performers included a few usual suspects: volume sales of Sierra Nevada Pale Ale and Torpedo IPA were up 4.6 percent 11.5 percent, respectively; volume sales of Lagunitas IPA were up 44.5 percent and volume sales of all New Glarus products were up 26.9 percent.
A little further down the list, sales of Goose Island IPA, now a $19 million brand, grew more than 250 percent.
For its part, Firestone Walker grew sales of the California-only 805 Blonde Ale — which will rollout to three new states this month — by more than 145 percent, to more than $19 million.
Founders All Day IPA, ranked no. 29 on IRI’s list of top-selling craft brands in MULC accounts, grew 175 percent to more than $17 million.
- Volume sales for both A-B InBev and MillerCoors, the two largest beer companies in the U.S., were flat.
- Portfolio-wide sales for Constellation Beer were up 15.7 percent.
- Volume sales for all Lagunitas products were up 48 percent.
- Alchemy & Science, a Boston Beer subsidiary, is now ranked as a top 25 U.S. vendor (MULC) and generated more than $39 million in sales last year.
- Import volumes, driven by the success of Mexican styles, the largest contributor, were up 9.9 percent. Mexican import volumes sales increased 14.2 percent in 2015.