IRI: Dry January Notwithstanding, US Beer Sales Grow in Early 2019

Beer volume sales got off to a strong start during the first four weeks of 2019, growing 3.7 percent compared to last year, according to market research firm IRI.

The Chicago-based retail data provider, which tracks sales at major off-premise retail chains, last week reported that year-to-date off-premise dollar sales for beer at multi-outlet and convenience (MULC) stores (grocery, drug, club, dollar, mass-merchandiser and military) eclipsed $2.3 billion (+6.4 percent) during the period ending January 27.

Flavored malt beverages, domestic super premiums and import offerings led the way, growing MULC dollar sales by 24.1 percent, 21.1 percent and 13.9 percent, respectively.

Meanwhile, volume sales of craft beer at MULC stores grew 4 percent, while dollar sales grew 4.9 percent.

Craft sales trends were even better in the convenience channel, where dollar sales grew 7.2 percent, to $89.7 million, through the first four weeks of the year.

The cider category also continued to grow, with dollar sales at MULC stores increasing 9.6 percent, and volume sales up 7.3 percent during the period.

Dollar sales of emerging product category, non-alcoholic beer, were also up 6.3 percent, to more than $7.3 million at MULC stores.

And while topline sales of craft beer were up during the period, a number of styles are in decline, including Belgian witbiers, seasonal offerings, pale ales, amber ales, amber lagers, wheat beers, and porters, among others.

Amber lagers and seasonal products are suffering the worst declines, with dollar sales down 11.8 percent and 11 percent, respectively, at MULC stores.

But there are some bright spots. Craft IPAs continue to grow – dollar sales were up 14.1 percent at MULC stores – and more sessionable offerings such as golden ales and pale lagers are trending upward, growing 16.5 percent and 30.6 percent, respectively.

Those gains are likely driven by the continued success of Firestone Walker’s 805 Blonde Ale, of which dollar sales were up 32.5 percent. Meanwhile, Boston Beer’s Sam 76 grew dollar sales 77.8 percent during the period.

Speaking of individual craft brands, 17 of the top 30 best-selling brands grew off-premise dollar sales through the first four weeks of the year, according to IRI.

Impressively, dollar sales of Sierra Nevada’s Hazy Little Thing IPA grew 280 percent, while Cigar City’s Jai Alai IPA dollar sales grew dollar 92.2 percent.

Other brands with double-digit dollar sales gains included Founders Brewing’s All Day IPA (+27.6 percent), Elysian’s Space Dust IPA (+36.5 percent), Bell’s Brewery’s Two Hearted Ale (+10.4 percent), New Belgium’s Rampant Imperial IPA (+33.3 percent), Samuel Adams’ variety pack (+12.5 percent), and MillerCoors’ Blue Moon Mango Wheat (+44.1 percent).

Boston Beer Company, the fifth largest U.S. vendor according to IRI, grew its off-premise MULC store sales 22.3 percent, while Mark Anthony Brands, maker of White Claw Hard Seltzer and Mike’s Hard Lemonade, grew its MULC volume sales 45.9 percent.

Among craft beer companies, Sierra Nevada and New Belgium both began the new year in the black (dollar sales up 5.2 percent and 9 percent, respectively) after coming off a challenging 2018.

Founders Brewing (+28.7 percent), Stone Brewing (+10.2 percent), Canarchy Craft Brewery Collective (+34.1 percent), Firestone Walker (+28.2 percent) and Artisanal Brewing Ventures (+10.1 percent) also grew dollar sales during the first four weeks of 2019.

Meanwhile, Bell’s Brewery (+3.3 percent), Dogfish Head Craft Brewery (+1.5 percent), Lagunitas Brewing Company (+0.8), and Deschutes Brewery (+0.6 percent) also grew dollar sales slightly.

Among major suppliers, Anheuser-Busch InBev’s volume sales at MULC stores grew 1.9 percent, while MillerCoors’ volume sales declined 0.2 percent.

Meanwhile, volume sales of Constellation Brands’ products (Corona, Modelo, Pacifico, Ballast Point, and others) at MULC stores were up 20.2 percent, while Heineken USA’s volume sales dipped one percent.

Amongst top-25 suppliers, Craft Brew Alliance suffered the worst declines, as dollar sales dropped 11 percent during the period.

Editor’s Note: On the topic of “Dry January,” on-demand alcohol delivery company Drizly recently compared purchasing trends during the early part of 2019 and found that “sales during the first two weekends in February were on average 14 percent higher than the average weekend sales in January.”

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