Craft beer sales are up more than 20 percent as the midway point of 2015 approaches, according to the most recent off-premise sales data compiled by IRI, a Chicago-based market research firm.
Across IRI multi-outlet and convenience channel (MULC) sales data — which comprises grocery, drug, club, dollar, mass-merchandiser (including Walmart) and military stores — total beer dollar sales are up 4.2 percent through May 17. Both the craft and cider categories are experiencing the most dramatic improvements, however, as cider’s dollar sales rose by 39.5 percent. Dollar sales for import beer brands are also up 10.4 percent.
Domestic premium sales, however, are up just 1 percent, and sales of flavored malt beverages are down slightly (-0.5 percent).
Total beer sales in MULC have topped $11 billion year-to-date, with craft comprising slightly more than 8 percent of those sales and ringing in more than $941 million through May 17.
Amongst the top 10 craft brands, Lagunitas IPA is — unsurprisingly — still one of the fastest-growing (and most widely distributed) craft brands; sales of the beer were up more than 56 percent in MULC through May 17. Not far behind is Boston Beer Company’s Samuel Adams Rebel IPA, sales of which jumped by 49.5 percent during the same period. In the food channel, however, dollar sales of Rebel IPA actually declined over the latest 13 week period, down 7.5 percent.
Meanwhile, sales of Samuel Adams Boston Lager, the country’s third best-selling craft brand, dipped by 2.4 percent in MULC.
Further down the list, Stone Brewing, SweetWater, and Dogfish Head all saw noteworthy gains of sales their respective flagships: Stone’s IPA was up 26.7 percent, Sweetwater Pale Ale jumped by 35 percent, and Dogfish Head 60 Minute IPA rose by 15.2 percent.
Firestone Walker rounded out the top 30 craft brands with its 805 Blonde Ale, up nearly 149 percent. The company began canning the beer last year. Co-founder David Walker, speaking at the recently held Beer Marketer’s Insights Conference, said that 805 now accounts for nearly half of the company’s overall business.
Samuel Adams Boston Lager wasn’t the only brand that saw a decline in sales. Redhook’s Long Hammer IPA slipped 0.5 percent, while sales of Magic Hat No. 9 and New Belgium’s seasonal offering fell 8.7 percent and 22.7 percent, respectively.
Despite a couple brand hiccups, the IPA category remains craft’s hottest style — dollar sales across MULC grew 37.1 percent. The style, which has exploded to the point that IPA sub-styles are positioned to outgrow entire segments of alcoholic beverages, owns 27.1 percent of craft’s overall dollar share.
And as craft brewers have built out additional capacity, they’ve also been able to dedicate more space to lagers, which typically take longer to ferment. Sales of craft pilsners were up more than 113 percent through May 17 and also eclipsed the $10 million barrier.