IRI Reports Mid-Year Sales Trends

With the first half of the year now in the rearview mirror, prudent craft beer entrepreneurs are analyzing the latest IRI figures and benchmarking their own performances through the first six months of 2014.

And for those brewery owners with limited access to expensive off-premise channel data, Brewbound has you covered with the latest numbers from IRI, a Chicago-based market research firm.

Let’s start with the least surprising news of the year: craft dollar sales are up and they don’t appear to be slowing down anytime soon. Dollar sales in IRI’s multi-outlet and convenience retail channel universe (MULC), which comprises grocery, drug, Wal-Mart, Club, Dollar, Mass-Merchandiser and Military stores, are up 23.7 percent to $943 million through June 15. In fact, craft has already gained a full share point of total beer dollar sales during the same period.

Meanwhile, domestic sub-premium beers like Natural Light and Keystone Light are hurting, down 4.3 percent and 5.2 percent, respectively. Dollar sales for the entire category are down 1.4 percent in MULC and 2.4 percent in the convenience channel, perhaps indicating that more consumers are continuing to trade up to more expensive premium and craft offerings.

In craft styles, India Pale Ales have grown 52.5 percent to more than $215 million through June 15. Split out from MULC, IPA dollar sales are up 44.4 percent in supermarkets, to $139.6 million, and an astonishing 68.6 percent in c-stores. By comparison, off-premise sales of IPAs (MULC) totaled $349 million in 2013.

Meanwhile, craft seasonal offerings, pale ales and variety packs are also growing at a double-digit pace. Dollar sales for each, in MULC, are up 20.4 percent, 13.7 percent and 22.6 percent, respectively. Saison and farmhouse ales have continued to grow as well, with sales up nearly 95 percent, to $1.4 million, through June 15.

But not all craft styles are on the ascent. Dollar sales of rye beer brands are down 33.7 percent in MULC. The category itself is small, however, having generated a mere $735,000 through June 15.

So what craft beer suppliers are profiting the most?

Through the first 165 days of the year, Boston Beer Company’s dollar sales are up 36.8 percent, to $284 million, in MULC. The brewery’s newest beer, Samuel Adams Rebel IPA, has already emerged as one of the top 10 best-selling craft brands, raking in more than $13 million this year.

Three other Boston Beer offerings also cracked the top 10 best-selling craft brands list. The Samuel Adams seasonal SKU is up 26 percent while sales of the company’s flagship, Boston Lager, are up 9.7 percent. However, sales of the Samuel Adams variety pack are down 9 percent in MULC and 12.6 percent in supermarkets.

A number of other craft flagships are growing rapidly through the midway point of the year, as well. Lagunitas IPA is eighth best-selling craft brand in MULC, with dollar sales climbing to $18.9 million, up 82.5 percent. Meanwhile, another Lagunitas offering is growing quickly. The company Little Sumpin’ Sumpin’ ale is up 91.7 percent and has generated more than $6.5 million in off-premise sales through July 15.

There are other stalwart craft mainstays continuing to grow as well. Sierra Nevada Pale Ale is still leading the pack, with dollar sales up 6.7 percent to more than $52 million. And thanks to the addition of new markets, sales of New Belgium Fat Tire — the fourth best-selling craft beer — are up 32.4 percent, to more than $37 million. Sales of that company’s variety pack are also up 73.3 percent.

Additional Craft Highlights:

  • Dollar sales of Gambrinus-owned Shiner Bock, the fifth largest craft brand, are up 12.8 percent, to $36.3 million, in MULC
  • Dollar sales of Dogfish Head 60 Minute IPA are up 31.2 percent to $5.8 million
  • Sales of Sierra Nevada’s seasonal SKU are down 6.5 percent in MULC.
  • The best-selling craft beer in a can is Sierra Nevada Pale Ale, sales for which are up 18.8 percent (in MULC) to more than $5.4 million.
  • Lagunitas is the fastest-growing, top-25 beer vendor in the country. Company-wide dollar sales are up 75 percent in MULC.
  • New Belgium Brewing is the second fastest-growing top-25 company. Its sales are up 44 percent in MULC.
  • Dollar sales of Saison/Farmhouse Ales are up 94.8 percent, to $1.4 million, in MULC.
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