Off-premise retail beer sales in the U.S. eclipsed $32 billion through December 2, according to market research firm IRI.
The Chicago-based group, which tracks sales at multi-outlet and convenience stores (grocery, drug, club, dollar, mass-merchandiser, and military), recently reported that dollar sales of beer were up 1.7 percent year-to-date.
However, off-premise volume sales of beer were down 0.4 percent through December 2, a trend that has plagued the beer industry for multiple years as an increasing number of consumers are drinking less and shifting toward wine and spirits.
Nevertheless, both volume and dollar sales of craft beer were up during the year-to-date period, 1.2 percent and 2.5 percent, respectively.
According to IRI, the best-selling craft beer brand in the U.S. is MillerCoors’ Blue Moon Belgian White. Off-premise volume sales for that offering were down 4.7 percent through December 2, however.
Off-premise sales of the top three U.S. craft beers – Blue Moon, Sierra Nevada Pale Ale and Leinenkugel’s seasonal shandy – were all in decline. Leinenkugel’s seasonal SKU suffered the worst losses, as volume sales were down more than 13 percent through December 2.
And while Boston Beer Company’s Truly Spiked & Sparkling, Angry Orchard Hard Cider and Twisted Tea products helped propel the manufacturer to more than 18 percent off-premise retail sales growth in 2018, volume sales of its flagship Boston Lager declined more than 14 percent.
New Belgium suffered a similar fate, as off-premise sales of its flagship Fat Tire amber ale have plummeted 19.4 percent year-to-date, according to IRI.
In fact, volume sales for 17 of the top 30 best-selling craft brands were in decline through December 2.
So which major craft brands are finding success in an ultra crowded and competitive environment?
Elysian Brewing’s Space Dust IPA, owned by Anheuser-Busch, increased volume sales 68 percent, according to IRI.
Meanwhile, volume sales for Firestone Walker’s 805 blonde ale, owned by Duvel Moortgat USA, grew 21.2 percent.
Other top performers included Cigar City Brewing’s Jai Alai IPA, which is owned by the Canarchy Craft Brewer Collective, and Kona Brewing’s Big Wave golden ale, which is owned by Craft Brew Alliance. Volume sales for those brands were up 70.9 percent and 31.6 percent, respectively. Meanwhile, volume sales of Founders All Day IPA, minority owned by Mahou San Miguel, were up 32.8 percent.