Nielsen: Beer Category Sales Top $1 Billion in 4 of the Last 5 Weeks

Beer category dollar sales in off-premise retailers have now topped $1 billion in four of the last five weeks, according to market research firm Nielsen.

For the one-week period ending June 20, off-premise scans increased 21.2%, to $1.02 billion, the firm reported. Category sales also reached $1 billion for the weeks ending June 13, as well as the weeks ending May 23 and May 30, which bookended the Memorial Day holiday. Sales fell just short of the $1 billion mark for the week ending June 6, totaling $998.4 million.

The latest sales spikes have nearly rivaled the July 4 holiday week in 2019, the previous high-water sales week of the last 52 weeks. Now, heading into the 2020 July 4 holiday, sales are surging, and they could go even higher as states once again pull back on allowing on-premise consumption in an effort to once slow down surges in new cases of COVID-19.

Three states with the largest populations in the U.S. — California, Texas and Florida — have each halted on-premise consumption of alcohol either statewide or in certain counties amid growing numbers of new cases of the novel coronavirus. Other states, including Arizona, are following suit.

Danelle Kosmal, Nielsen VP of Beverage Alcohol Practice, told Brewbound that off-premise sales trends have been unpredictable, as an expected slow down in off-premise sales as bars and restaurants reopened never materialized. With a second round of closures and the upcoming July 4 holiday weekend — typically the biggest off-premise beer sales week of the year — another sales spike is expected over the next few weeks, she added.

“In 2019, beer/FMB/cider had just over $1 billion in sales in Nielsen off-premise channels for the week of July 4th,” she noted. “This year is a different story, as the category has hovered around the $1 billion [mark] in off-premise sales each week for the past five weeks. With the additional on-premise closures, and a July 4th weekend holiday, we could expect off-premise category sales to surpass $1.2 billion this year.”

That said, Kosmal cautioned that sales in the coming weeks and months will depend on on-shelf availability of products.

“I imagine this will be an issue, but I also imagine the system is working hard to prevent as many out of stocks as possible,” she wrote.

For the week ending June 20, the growth drivers look similar to the preceding weeks, with hard seltzer leading the way, with dollar sales up 234%, followed by super premium offerings (+22.3%) and FMBs (+19.3%).

For the fifth consecutive week, hard seltzers have maintained more than 10% of beer category dollar sales.

Nielsen also noted that it was a strong week for craft, as dollar sales increased 17.1%. The biggest growth drivers in the craft segment were Molson Coors-owned Blue Moon, New Belgium, Sierra Nevada, Firestone Walker and Heineken-owned Lagunitas. Collectively, those brands accounted for 42% of craft beer dollar growth during the week, Kosmal wrote.

Beer category sales during the COVID-19 period in the U.S. (March 1 through June 20) are up 21.4% in off-premise retailers. Year-to-date off-premise beer category sales are up 16%, to $20.85 billion.

Despite the upward trajectory of off-premise sales, not all breweries are benefiting, especially craft brewers, with about 40% of their volume flowing through the on-premise channel.

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