IRI: Off-Premise Beer Sales Top $37 Billion in 2019

Total beer dollar sales in 2019 increased to $37.2 billion in U.S. off-premise retailers, according to market research firm IRI.

The Chicago-based market research firm, which tracks category-wide sales at major off-premise retailers, reported a 5.2% increase in beer dollar sales, and a 2.3% increase in volume sales at multi-outlet and convenience (MULC) stores (grocery, drug, club, dollar, mass-merchandiser and military) through December 29.

Meanwhile, market research firm Nielsen reported that total beer, FMB and cider dollar sales in the U.S. grew 3.4%, to $39.6 billion, while volume sales increased 0.7% for the 52-week period ending December 28.

Of course, scan data only offers part of the picture — distributed beer sold in off-premise retailers such as grocery, convenience and big box stores — for a year, not factoring in on-premise dollar sales, at-the-brewery sales and other metrics such as independent liquor stores. However, the data does give insight into sales at retail by larger players.

According to IRI, seven segments — imports, domestic sub-premiums, craft, flavored malt beverages, domestic super premiums, non-alcoholic beer and assorted — increased dollar sales in 2019.

Dollar sales of FMBs, which include hard seltzers, increased 43.1%, to nearly $4 billion, while volume sales increased about 42% last year.

Nielsen, which breaks out hard seltzer segment data from FMBs, reported that off-premise dollar sales of hard seltzer increased 212.5%, to $1.5 billion, in 2019.

Much of the growth in FMBs is being driven by the triple-digit growth of Mark Anthony Brands’ White Claw offerings (+330% dollar sales) and Boston Beer Company’s Truly Hard Seltzer (+180.2%), according to IRI. Portfolio-wide White Claw dollar sales reached $833.6 million last year, while Truly brand family dollar sales topped $368.8 million.

The popularity of White Claw and Mike’s Hard Lemonade products (+12.5%) has made Mark Anthony Brands the fourth largest beer company in the U.S. In 2019, Mark Anthony Brands’ products increased dollar sales 87%, to almost $1.5 billion.

Dollar sales of beer’s largest segment, domestic premiums (Bud Light, Budweiser, Coors Light, Miller Lite and others) declined 3.1%, to more than $12 billion. Volume sales were also on the decline for domestic premium brands, down 4.1% in 2019.

Although craft beer dollar sales continue to grow, up 2.8%, to $4.3 billion, in 2019, the segment has slowed considerably over the last two years. In fact, just 13 of IRI’s top 30 craft brands posted dollar sales gains in 2019, mirroring 2018’s results.

Meanwhile, imports, the beer industry’s second largest segment, grew dollar sales 6.1%, to nearly $7.5 billion last year. Other segments increasing dollar sales in 2019 included domestic sub-premium brands (+1.2%), domestic super premium (+13.3%), and non-alcoholic beers (+23.3%).

The trends weren’t quite as good for cider, as both dollar sales (-2.2%) and volume sales (-4.5%) declined.

Trends for craft’s top-selling brand, Molson Coors-owned Blue Moon Belgian White, improved after a tough 2018. After dollar sales declines of 3.4% in 2018, sales of Blue Moon’s flagship were flat at $271.9 million in 2019.

Craft’s second best selling brand, Sierra Nevada Pale Ale, declined again in 2019. After posting sales declines of 5.5% in 2018, Sierra Nevada Pale Ale declined 6.2%, to $101.4 million, in 2019. However, Sierra Nevada’s Hazy Little Thing IPA continued to post strong sales growth, increasing 117.7%, to $52.7 million, in 2019.

Other major craft beer offerings in decline included Shiner Bock (-2.9%), Leinenkugel’s Shandy (-11.5%), Shock Top (-19.9%), New Belgium Fat Tire Amber Ale (-9.1%), Samuel Adams Boston Lager (-7.9%), Sierra Nevada Torpedo Extra IPA (-4.4%), Goose Island IPA (-6.7%), Lagunitas A Little Sumpin’ Sumpin’ Ale (-1.7%), New Glarus offerings (-2.5%), Sweetwater 420 Pale Ale (-6.5%), Stone IPA (-10.8%) and Deschutes Fresh Squeezed IPA (-5%).

Samuel Adams’ seasonal program bucked negative trends by maintaining roughly flat dollar sales, while seasonal offerings from Sierra Nevada (-17.8%), Bell’s Brewery (-7.8%), and Blue Moon (-34.1%) were each in the red.

Within the top 10 IRI-tracked craft brands of 2019, four brands — Lagunitas IPA (+3.8%), Founders All Day IPA (+6.2%), A-B-owned Elysian Space Dust IPA (+23.1%) and Firestone Walker 805 (+12.7%) — posted single or double-digit dollar sales growth.

Other top 30 craft brands posting positive dollar sales growth last year include Bells’ Two Hearted Ale (+0.6%), New Belgium Rampant Imperial IPA (+27.3%), New Belgium Ranger IPA (+5.9%), Cigar City Jai Alai IPA (+40.9%), Craft Brew Alliance-owned Kona Big Wave Golden Ale (+16.9%), and Blue Moon Mango Wheat (+8.7%).

Among IRI’s top 25 vendors of 2019, 16 beer companies grew portfolio-wide dollar sales. Boston Beer Company remained the top-selling craft beverage maker and is now the sixth-largest beer company overall. Driven by sales growth of hard tea and seltzer, Boston Beer increased dollar sales 25.1%, to nearly $1.3 billion, in 2019.

Several top craft breweries also grew portfolio-wide dollar sales in 2019, including Sierra Nevada (+4.2%), New Belgium (+10.3%), Lagunitas (+0.7%), Founders (+7%), the CANarchy Craft Brewery Collective (+29.3%), Firestone Walker (+20.8%), Bell’s Brewery (+5.7%), Sweetwater (+5.1%), and the parent company of Victory, Southern Tier and Sixpoint, Artisanal Brewing Ventures (+17.1%).

2019 wasn’t as kind to other craft beer makers, including D.G. Yuengling & Son (-3.8%), Shiner-maker Gambrinus (-6.3%), CBA (-1.8%), Stone Brewing (-8.2%), and Deschutes Brewery (-0.6%).

As for the country’s two largest beer companies, Anheuser-Busch InBev and Molson Coors, both improved their dollar sales trends. A-B grew dollar sales 1.2%, finishing 2019 with $15 billion in dollar sales, while sales of Molson Coors’ products declined 0.8%, to nearly $7.4 billion. However, Molson Coors’ trends were a marked improvement over 2018, when the company’s sales declined 2.9%.

A-B, the world’s largest beer manufacturer, now owns the two top-selling beer brands in the U.S. Despite a nearly 5% decline, Bud Light sales topped $5 billion, making it by far the top-selling beer brand in the U.S. Michelob Ultra is now the second best selling beer brand in the U.S., after growing dollar sales 16.7%, to $2.3 billion.

Meanwhile, Budweiser has fallen outside of the top five beer brands — despite selling about $1.8 billion of product, after declining more than 4% yet again.

As for Molson Coors, Miller Lite helped reverse the company’s negative trends, increasing sales 1.6%, to more than $2 billion, last year. However, Coors Light, the No. 3 beer brand in the U.S., declined 1.5%, to $2.2 billion.

Modelo Especial’s ascent has continued with the brand becoming the fourth best-selling beer in the country, after posting dollar sales growth of 18.8%, to about $2.1 billion.

Dollar sales of Constellation Brands’ portfolio, which includes Modelo, Corona and Pacifico, increased 11.1%, to nearly $5.1 billion. Constellation’s other top Mexican import brand, Corona Extra, increased sales 2.4%, to about $1.8 billion.

The trends weren’t as good for Heineken USA (-2.5%) and Pabst Brewing Company (-7.9%), which both declined last year.

And FIFCO USA, known for FMB offerings such as Seagram’s, Pura Still, Hemptails and Fun Wine, and beer brands Labatt, Genesee, Magic Hat, Pyramid and Portland Brewing, rounded out the top 10 overall vendors, increasing dollar sales 3.8%.

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