IRI Worldwide: US Beer Sales Down Slightly Through Early November

With just six weeks left to go in 2017, U.S. beer volume sales are roughly flat, according to recent data from Chicago-based market research firm IRI Worldwide.

The firm, which tracks category-wide sales trends at off-premise retailers, reported that U.S. beer volume sales were down 0.7 percent while total beer dollar sales have increased 1 percent through November 5.

According to IRI, total beer dollar sales for the first 309 days of the year topped more than $29.3 billion in its multi-outlet and convenience (MULC) store universe of stores (grocery, drug, club, dollar, mass-merchandiser and military).

To date, the strongest sales performance has been in domestic super premium and import offerings. Import volume sales have increased 6.5 percent while dollar sales are up 8.3 percent. Domestic super premiums — such as Michelob Ultra — have fared even better, with increases in volumes sales (up 9 percent) and dollar sales (up 10.9 percent).

Domestic premiums — such as Budweiser or Bud Light — have declined, however. Volume sales, for those brands are down 4 percent while dollar sales are down 3.1 percent.

Meanwhile, craft beer volume sales have increased 3.8 percent while total dollar sales are up 5.7 percent year-to-date through November 5.

Molson Coors-owned Blue Moon Belgian White and Leinenkugel’s Shandy continue to be ranked as IRI’s top two “craft” brands. Case sales of Blue Moon increased 6.7 percent while dollar sales increased 8 percent on the year. Meanwhile, case sales of Leinenkugel’s Shandy are up 10.5 percent while dollar sales are up 12.3 percent.

2017 has also been a turbulent year for many regional craft brewers. As of November 5, dollar sales for many notable craft players were in decline, including Sierra Nevada (down 5.6 percent), Boston Beer Company (down 2.6 percent), Craw Brew Alliance (down 5.3 percent) and Deschutes (down 5.1 percent).

But some breweries are bucking those trends. Michigan’s Founders Brewing posted the strongest growth amongst IRI’s top 25 vendors, increasing dollar sales 43.8 percent and volume sales by 52 percent. That’s in large part due to its flagship All Day IPA, which has grown dollar sales by 46.1 percent and volume sales by 49.2 percent in 2017.

Other craft breweries posting double-digit dollar sales growth in 2017 include Lagunitas (up 10.3 percent), Bell’s Brewery (up 19.3 percent), Stone Brewing (up 15.4 percent), Sweetwater Brewing (up 15.9 percent), Firestone Walker (up 17.1 percent), Dogfish Head (up 15.6 percent), New Glarus (up 12.1 percent) and Artisanal Brewing Ventures (Southern Tier and Victory Brewing, which are up a combined 15.3 percent).

Among craft styles, 2017 has been a strong year for golden ales with case sales up 45.3 percent and dollar sales up 42 percent. Another style posting high double-digit growth: craft pale lagers, with case sales up 26.2 percent and dollar sales up 26.6 percent through November 5.

However, IPAs remain the largest craft style with more than $1 billion in sales to date. Volume sales were up 14.4 percent, while dollar sales were up 15.6 percent through November 5, IRI reported.

Dollar sales for the world’s largest brewer, Anheuser-Busch InBev, have increased by 1 percent this year, but its volume sales have declined 2.5 percent. Those struggles lie in flagships Bud Light (down 5.4 percent in volume sales) and Budweiser (down 6 percent in volume sales). However, volume sales of A-B’s low-carb offering, Michelob Ultra, are up 20.4 percent.

Dollar sales for A-B’s largest U.S. competitor, MillerCoors, were down 1.5 percent through November 5, while its volume sales dipped 2 percent. MillerCoors’ flagship light lagers, Coors Light and Miller Lite, are also both in decline, with volume sales down 2.5 and 1.7 percent, respectively.

Meanwhile, Pabst Brewing Company’s dollar sales declined 9.8 percent while its volume sales dipped 5.4 percent.

On the flip side, Constellation Brands, which owns the popular Modelo and Corona Mexican import brands in the U.S. as well as offerings from nationally distributed San Diego craft brewery Ballast Point, continued its hot streak with portfolio-wide volume sales increasing 12.3 percent. Constellation Beer’s dollar sales also grew 13.8 percent through November 5.

Modelo Especial dollar sales increased 21.9 percent while Corona Extra dollar sales were up 7.9 percent.