IRI: Craft Sales Up 20 Percent; Not Your Father’s Root Beer Cracks the List


The midway point of the year is upon us and with brewers gearing up for Independence Day, one of beer’s biggest selling opportunities, we’re spotlighting a few off-premise sales trends.


Surprise, surprise – sales of craft beer and cider continue to outpace other segments, up more than 20 percent and 34 percent, respectively, through June 14 in IRI Worldwide’s multi-outlet and convenience store universe (which includes grocery, drug, Wal-Mart, club, dollar, mass-merchandiser and military stores). The craft segment currently comprises more than 8 percent of total beer dollar sales, according to the research firm.

And despite the trend toward smaller-batch, flavor-forward beers, sales of domestic premium offerings are actually up 0.6 percent, according to the firm, while domestic sub-premium sales are down 2 percent. Total off-premise dollar sales, meanwhile, are up 3.8 percent, driven in part by the growth of imports — sales for which are up more than 9.8 percent (MULC).

Winners and Losers

Only 3 of the top 25 vendors are experiencing dollar sales declines and surprisingly, two of them have interests in the craft space. North American Breweries, which produces and markets the Magic Hat, Pyramid and Portland Brewing lines of craft beers, as well as Genesee, Dundee and Labatt, is down 2.6 percent in MULC. Sales of Labatt Blue, the organization’s largest single brand, and Magic Hat No. 9 are down 2.7 percent and 9.6 respectively.

Also struggling is C&C Group, which owns the Woodchuck and Magners Cider brands. Sales across the portfolio are down more than 16 percent, something the company hopes will improve as Woodchuck rolls out its first set of digital and terrestrial ads.

Usual suspects Boston Beer, Sierra Nevada and Lagunitas are all chugging along – dollar sales are up 15 percent, 25 percent and 56 percent, respectively. Driving Sierra’s growth are powerhouse flagship brands Pale Ale and Torpedo, which are up 8.4 percent and 15.8 percent, respectively. Meanwhile, Lagunitas IPA continues to move up the charts. With sales up more than 54 percent, Lagunitas IPA is now the 6th best-selling off-premise craft brand in the country, according to IRI.

And there’s a newcomer on IRI’s top 30 craft brands list too. Small Town Brewery’s Not Your Father’s Root Beer has already cracked the top 25 in MULC, with more than $7 million in sales through June 14. Pabst owner Eugene Kashper and other brewery principals recently agreed to take the brand national in exchange for a stake in the company.

Here are few other craft highlights:

  • Sales of Firestone Walker 805 Blonde Ale are up 148 percent.
  • Sales from a grouping of “all other vendors” – which consists primarily of craft breweries – are up more than 319 percent and good enough for a no. 17 ranking on IRI’s top 25 vendor list.
  • Sales of Sierra Nevada’s variety pack are up 133 percent.
  • Sales of Lagunitas Little Sumpin Sumpin Ale are up 63 percent.
  • New Glarus’ entire portfolio, which is only sold in Wisconsin, is up 29 percent.
  • Sales of Founders All Day IPA are up more than 200 percent in supermarkets, good enough for 28 on the top craft brands list.

Craft Styles

IPA is still the craft segment’s most popular style. Dollar sales are up more than 45 percent, to $321 million, through June 14. One in every four beers purchased off-premise is an IPA, according to IRI.

Other fast-growing styles include craft pilsners, which are up more than 118 percent and craft saison/farmhouse ales, sales of which are up nearly 150 percent through June 14.

And despite the widespread popularity of brands like Widmer Hefeweizen and Blue Moon, a MillerCoors-owned product, craft consumers are actually gravitating away from wheat beers as a style — sales are currently down more than 4 percent.

Bonus: Want additional craft insights? Video of IRI principal Dan Wandel, who presented at Brewbound Session Chicago earlier this month, is included below.