IRI: US Beer Sales Top $35 Billion in 2018

Total U.S. beer dollar sales grew to more than $35 billion in 2018, according to retail data provider IRI.

The Chicago-based market research firm, which tracks category-wide sales at major off-premise retailers, reported a 1.8 percent increase in beer dollar sales, despite a 0.3 percent decline in volume sales at multi-outlet and convenience (MULC) stores (grocery, drug, club, dollar, mass-merchandiser and military) through December 30.

Dollar sales of domestic premium brands (Bud Light, Budweiser, Miller Lite, Coors Light, and others), declined 4.2 percent, to more than $12.6 billion last year.

Meanwhile, five segments — imports, craft beer, domestic super premiums, flavored malt beverages and cider — grew dollar sales in 2018. Dollar sales of imported beer, the beer category’s second-largest segment behind domestic premium, increased 7.4 percent, to more than $7 billion.

Dollar sales of craft beer increased 2.5 percent, to more than $4.2 billion, last year. However, sales decelerated from 2017’s increase of 5.6 percent. In fact, 17 of IRI’s top 30 craft brands posted dollar sales declines in 2018.

At the same time, three segments grew dollar sales double-digits in 2018. Sales of domestic super premiums were up 15.2 percent, to $2.9 billion, while sales of flavored malt beverages grew 10.7 percent, to nearly $2.6 billion. Sales of cider also grew 10.1 percent, to more than $433 million. Other segments, like domestic sub-premiums and non-alcoholic beers, were in decline, however.

According to IRI, the two largest craft brands in 2018 — Molson-Coors-owned Blue Moon Belgian White and Sierra Nevada Pale Ale — were both in decline. Blue Moon dollar sales were down 3.4 percent, while sales of Sierra Nevada Pale Ale declined 5.5 percent.

Several other notable core craft beer offerings also posted dollar sales declines last year, including Leinenkugel’s Shandy Seasonal (-12.9 percent), Shiner Bock (-3.5 percent), Lagunitas IPA (-2.4 percent), Shock Top Belgian White Ale (-12.4 percent), New Belgium Fat Tire Amber Ale (-17.5 percent), Samuel Adams Boston Lager (-13.7 percent), Sierra Nevada Torpedo Extra IPA (-7.3 percent), Goose Island IPA (-0.6 percent), Sweetwater 420 Pale Ale (-2.2 percent), and Stone IPA (-1.6 percent).

In fact, only two of the top 10 IRI-tracked craft brands — Boston Beer Company’s Samuel Adams seasonals products (+3.6 percent) and Founders Brewing All Day IPA (+31.4 percent) — grew dollar sales in 2018.

Nevertheless, several other craft brands posted strong double-digit dollar sales growth, including Firestone Walker 805 (+22.7 percent), Elysian Space Dust (+61.8 percent), Bell’s Brewery Two Hearted Ale (+10.7 percent), New Belgium Rampant Imperial IPA (+41.1 percent), Kona Big Wave Golden Ale (+32.4 percent) and Cigar City Jai Alai IPA (+68.6 percent).

Two new offerings that were released nationwide in 2018 — Sierra Nevada Hazy Little Thing IPA and Boston Beer Company’s Sam ’76 — managed to crack the top 30. Hazy Little Thing’s dollar sales topped $24 million, while sales of Sam ‘76 nearly reached $20 million.

Among IRI’s top 25 vendors last year, 15 beer companies increased portfolio-wide dollar sales. Driven by increased sales of its alcoholic tea, cider and seltzer brands, Boston Beer Company finished the year as the top-selling craft beverage manufacturer, with dollar sales up nearly 19 percent, to more $957 million.

Several other craft breweries also grew dollar sales in 2018, including Sierra Nevada (+3.2 percent), Lagunitas (+0.7 percent), Founders Brewing (+32.4 percent), Stone Brewing (+6.9 percent), Bell’s Brewery (+4.8 percent), Canarchy Craft Brewery Collective (+14.8 percent), Firestone Walker (+17.9 percent), Sweetwater Brewing (+2 percent), Artisanal Brewing Ventures (+13.4 percent) and Dogfish Head Craft Brewery (+9.4 percent).

Meanwhile, the country’s two largest beer companies, Anheuser-Busch InBev (-0.9 percent) and MillerCoors (-2.9 percent) both posted dollar sales declines in 2018. Other companies in decline last year included Heineken USA (-4.1 percent), Pabst Brewing Co. (-5.4 percent), FIFCO USA (-8.1 percent), New Belgium (-3.3 percent), Phusion Projects (-5.5 percent), Gambrinus (-3.6 percent), Craft Brew Alliance (-4.6 percent) and Deschutes Brewery (-7.6 percent).

A-B, the world’s largest beer manufacturer, finished 2018 with off-premise dollar sales totaling nearly $14.9 billion. The company lost about $140 million in off-premise dollars sales as flagship offerings Bud Light and Budweiser continued to decline.

Dollar sales of Bud Light, the top-selling beer in the U.S., dipped 5.5 percent, to about $5.3 billion.


Meanwhile, Michelob Ultra surpassed Budweiser as A-B’s second-best-selling brand, as dollar sales of the low-carb offering increased 15.9 percent, to more than $1.9 billion. Budweiser dollar sales declined 4.3 percent, to nearly $1.9 billion.

Portfolio-wide dollar sales of MillerCoors offerings topped $7.4 billion last year, but the company’s flagship light lagers — Coors Light (-3.9 percent) and Miller Lite (-1.3 percent) — were both in decline.

Constellation Brands, which manufacturers and distributes the popular Modelo and Corona Mexican import labels in the U.S., as well as craft beers from Ballast Point, Funky Buddha and Four Corners, finished 2018 as the third largest beer company in the country. The New York-headquartered company’s dollar sales grew 13.9 percent, to about $4.6 billion.

Constellation’s top two brands, Modelo Especial and Corona Extra, each brought in more than $1.7 billion. However, dollar sales of Modelo Especial increased 18.7 percent while sales of Corona Extra were flat.

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