Nielsen: Beer Category Sales Top $983 Million For Week Ending May 9; Biggest Week in 2020 So Far

The Cinco de Mayo holiday helped boost the beer category to its biggest sales week in 2020 so far for the week ending May 9, as dollar sales in off-premise retailers topped $983.6 million, according to market research firm Nielsen.

In fact, the latest one-week period is the highest sales week since last year’s July 4 holiday week, the firm reported. The week ending May 9 also topped the main pantry-loading week during the COVID-19 outbreak (the week ending March 21) by $15 million.

Here’s a look back at the previous nine weeks of off-premise beer category dollar sales during the COVID-19 sales period:

  • +8%, to $694.1 million, for the week ending March 7;
  • +15.2%, to $792.7 million, for the week ending March 14;
  • +39.5%, to $968.7 million, for the week ending March 21;
  • +17.9%, to $819.8 million, for the week ending March 28;
  • +19.4%, to $840.3 million, for the week ending April 4;
  • +19.8%, to $863.7 million, for the week ending April 11;
  • +12.3%, to $855.5 million, for the week ending April 18;
  • +20.4%, to $909.5 million, for the week ending April 25;
  • +28.1%, to $966.8 million, for the week ending May 2.

Bump Williams Consulting (BWC) released its own analysis, citing data from market research firm IRI, noting that dollar sales increased 33.3% for the week ending May 10 and outpaced the weekly average during the COVID-19 period of +24%.

Dollar sales of beer year-to-date are up 16%, to nearly $14 billion. Beer category sales over the last two months have also led to absolute dollar sales gains for the category year-to-date (+$1.927 billion) topping the dollar sales gains for the entirety of 2019 (+$1.837 billion). Helping drive that growth is the increase in sales of premium offerings, which ended 2019 down about $391 million, and is up $194 million year-to-date.

With the Memorial Day holiday approaching, the beer category “could be poised for a massive week of off-premise sales,” BWC noted.

Just a reminder that while the off-premise growth has been impressive, the sales increases in off-premise retailers haven’t been enough to make up for the loss of on-premise sales, as evidenced by recent earnings reports from Molson Coors, Anheuser-Busch InBev and Craft Brew Alliance. Additionally, craft brands have been disproportionately negatively affected by COVID-19 shutting down bars, restaurants, taprooms and tasting rooms.

Nevertheless, total alcohol sales growth in off-premise retailers (+34.8%) continued to outpace the growth of other fast-moving consumer goods (+15.5%) during the week ending May 9, according to Nielsen. Spirits (+48.5%) led the way, trailed by wine (+35.8%) and beer, FMBs and cider (+29.3%).

Helping drive growth of the beer category was a 33.5% dollar sales increase for Mexican imports during the one-week period. Constellation Brands’ Modelo and Corona brand families also took the No. 3 and No. 4 spots on Nielsen’s list of top growth brand families in the beer category.

The triple-digit dollar sales growth of hard seltzer brands also continued, increasing 334% compared to the same one-week period. However, the week-over-week growth for the segment was just 2.2%, and hard seltzer’s share declined slightly from 8.8% the week prior, to 8.6%.

“However, I would expect that to jump back up in the next week’s data,” Nielsen Beverage Alcohol Practice VP Danelle Kosmal wrote in an email.

As Brewbound reported last week, one analyst believes hard seltzer’s share of the beer category could grow to 10% by the summer.

All other beer category segments posted double-digit growth for the week ending May 9:

  • Super premium dollar sales increased 32.7%, with Anheuser-Busch InBev’s Michelob Ultra brand taking the No. 1 growth brand spot.
  • Premium lights increased dollar sales 16.3%, with the top three brands — Bud Light, Coors Light and Miller Lite — ranking among the top 10 growth brands in the beer category.
  • Craft beer dollar sales increased 23.7%.
  • Cider increased 18.6%.
  • Budget beer increased 6.7%.
  • Non-alcoholic beer registered one of its strongest weeks of the year, increasing 44.4%.
  • FMBs, excluding hard seltzers, grew dollar sales 32.8%.

In the convenience channel, double-digit sales trends continued, increasing 24.6% during the latest one-week period.

Consumers’ shift to larger pack sizes also continued, as 30-packs (+36.2%) and 24-packs (+35%) recorded double-digit growth. Hard seltzer brands also helped lead to a surge in sales of 12-packs, which increased dollar sales 52% for the week.

According to BWC, the average price paid per case continued to increase, nearly reaching $26 per case during the latest one-week period. Average case prices have increased about 5% over the last four weeks, translating to a $1 per case increase on average in the multi-outlet and convenience channels.

Nielsen also noted that the number of consumer packaged goods online buyers since the COVID-19 stock-up period began in mid-March has increased by 10 million people. Among those new buyers, 28% are repeat buyers.

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