Following a year of flat sales at off-premise retail in 2017, U.S. beer dollar sales increased 3 percent through the first four weeks of 2018, according to retail data provider IRI Worldwide.
IRI, a Chicago-based market research firm that tracks category-wide sales trends at off-premise retailers, reported total U.S. dollar sales of about $2.2 billion through January 28 in its multi-outlet and convenience (MULC) universe of stores (grocery, drug, club, dollar, mass-merchandiser and military).
Positive volume sales trends continued in three segments — imports (7.3 percent), craft beer (4.4 percent) and domestic super premiums (12.3 percent). And, after a year of decline, early volume sales trends improved for flavored malt beverages (9.8 percent).
However, volume sales of domestic premium beers (Budweiser, Bud Light, Coors Light and Miller Lite, among others) continued to slide, about 2.1 percent.
Portfolio-wide sales trends improved for Samuel Adams-maker Boston Beer Company in January, as the company increased dollar sales 10.3 percent. Scan data showed dollar sales of the latest Samuel Adams seasonal release up 85.8 percent versus last year. However, the negative dollar sales trends continued for the company’s flagship brands, Samuel Adams Boston Lager (-15.3 percent) and Rebel IPA (-22.8 percent), during the four-week period.
Several other beer companies increased dollars by double digits in January, including Bell’s (17.1 percent), Founders (51.2 percent), Sweetwater Brewing Company (11 perdent), Dogfish Head (31.9 percent). Artisanal Brewing Ventures — which includes Southern Tier and Victory Brewing — was also up 25.3 percent.
Dollar sales for several notable craft brands also grew, including Lagunitas IPA (2.1 percent), Founders All Day IPA (15.3 percent), Firestone Walker 805 Blonde Ale (15.5 percent), Bell’s Two Hearted Ale (20.5 percent), Sweetwater 420 Pale Ale (6.3 percent), New Belgium Rampant Imperial IPA (71.7 percent) and Kona Big Wave Golden Ale (49.7 percent).
Other top craft brewers didn’t fare as well, however. Dollar sales declined for Sierra Nevada (-4.2 percent), New Belgium (-1.3 percent), North American Breweries (-3.9 percent), Gambrinus (-8.9 percent) and Deschutes (-17.4 percent) during the first four weeks of the year.
Declines in some of those companies’ flagship brands help to explain those struggles. Dollar sales of Sierra Nevada Pale Ale and Torpedo Extra IPA dipped 5.3 percent and 9.7 percent, respectively. Sales of Gambrinus’ Shiner Bock declined 2.9 percent while New Belgium’s Fat Tire Amber Ale dropped 13.7 percent during the four week period.
Meanwhile, the world’s largest brewer, Anheuser-Busch InBev, started the year flat. However, dollar sales of the company’s top two brands, Bud Light and Budweiser, continued to lag, declining 3.4 percent and 1.8 percent, respectively.
Nevertheless, A-B’s low-carb offering, Michelob Ultra, continued its upward trajectory, increasing dollar sales by 23.4 percent. And two of the company’s craft offerings, Goose Island IPA and Elysian Space Dust IPA, increased dollar sales by 15.3 percent and 121.2 percent, respectively.
Total dollar sales for A-B’s largest U.S. competitor, MillerCoors, grew 0.5 percent. The company’s flagship light lagers, Coors Light and Miller Lite, had mixed results though, as dollar sales declined 1.4 percent for Coors Light and increased 0.9 percent for Miller Lite.
According to IRI, MillerCoors’ Blue Moon Belgian White remained the top selling “craft” brand, growing dollar sales by 3.2 percent to more than $18 million during the period.
Constellation Brands was the only beer manufacturer among IRI’s top four vendors to grow by double digits. Constellation increased dollar sales 16 percent as the company’s top two Mexican import labels — Corona Extra and Modelo Especial — both increased dollar sales by 9 percent and 25.2 percent, respectively.