Nielsen: Hard Seltzers Account for 45% of Total Beer Category Growth in Off-Premise Retailers During Latest 1 Week Period

The streak of consecutive billion dollar weeks for the beer category now stands at nine — and hard seltzers are continuing to push triple-digit growth.

For the one-week period ending July 18, off-premise dollar sales of beer, cider and FMBs increased 15.4%, to $1.042 billion, compared to the same one-week period in 2019, according to market research firm Nielsen. Volume sales for the week increased 12% compared to last year.

Take out the beyond beer offerings, including hard seltzers, and core beer dollar sales increased 8.6%.

Year-to-date through July 18, beer category sales are up 15.8%, to $26.4 billion, in off-premise retailers.

In the latest one-week period, all segments were in the black in off-premise retailers year-over-year, which Nielsen VP of beverage alcohol practice Danelle Kosmal noted is likely due to the second round of closures of on-premise establishments.

Even in the face of tough comparisons from the 2019 “summer of seltzer,” hard seltzer is posting “phenomenal” growth rates, increasing dollar sales 142% in the latest one-week period, Kosmal wrote. The growth of hard seltzers has led Nielsen to break out hard seltzers from the FMB segment, and the two will be tallied as separate segments moving forward.

Hard seltzers now account for 45% of the total beer category growth, driven by segment leaders White Claw (Mark Anthony Brands), Truly Hard Seltzer (Boston Beer Company) and Bud Light Seltzer (Anheuser-Busch), Kosmal wrote.

“Given the unique circumstances of 2020, it’s interesting to see how well new brands are performing this year,” she added. “Three of the top six seltzer brands for the latest week (ranked by off-premise dollars) were either new brands or brand extensions launched in 2020.”

In a separate report released this morning, market research firm IRI reported that the White Claw brand family’s off-premise dollar sales are on the cusp of $1 billion, at $999,980,173, an increase of 259.5% year-to-date through July 12. That makes White Claw the seventh largest beer category brand family in the U.S.

Meanwhile, the Truly brand family’s year-to-date dollar sales are up 195.4%, to more than $441.2 million. Truly is the eleventh best selling brand family in off-premise retailers so far.

And the Bud Light Seltzer band family has posted more than $172.6 million in off-premise sales through mid-July.

Back to Nielsen and the week ending July 18, dollar sales for super premiums (+20.6%), craft beer (+12.6%), Mexican imports (+7.2%), premium lights (+6.4%), FMBs (+5%) and below premiums (+0.4%) were all back to growth for the week.

Total alcoholic beverage sales increased 19% for the week, with the growth rates of spirits (+29.3%) and wine (+19.7%) continuing to outpace beer, Nielsen reported.

The beer category also posted a “strong week” in the convenience channel, increasing dollar sales 18.4% and outpacing the growth rates in the grocery channel (+15.4%) for the week.

Nielsen also offered a look into different time periods during the COVID-19 pandemic. The firm offered a definition for the three periods.

  • The “COVID Year-to-Date” period, covering the first week of March through July 18. In that period, beer category dollar sales were up 19.8%, to $20.1 billion, compared to the same time last year.
  • The “Restricted Living” period, covering the first week of March through the end of May. During Restricted Living, beer category sales increased 21.8%, to $12.4 billion, compared to last year.
  • The “Reopening” period, the first week of June through July 18. During Reopening, beer category dollar sales increased 16.6%, to $7.6 billion, compared to the same time last year.

Kosmal also noted the biggest shifts between the Restricted Living to the Reopening phases:

  • Beer category (beer/FMBs/cider) in the grocery channel: +30.1% during restricted living versus +18.6% in reopening period;
  • Cider: +18.6% in restricted living versus +6.7% during reopening;
  • FMBs (excluding seltzers): +23.1% during restricted living versus +11.7% during reopening;
  • Kombucha: +70.0% during restricted living versus +30% during reopening;
  • Mexican imports: +20.4% during restricted living versus +10.5% during reopening, some of which may be due to out of stock issues;
  • Hard seltzer: +312% during restricted living versus +180% during reopening.

Segments that have largely remained steady between these two phases are super premiums, premium lights, craft beer and non-alcoholic beer, Kosmal added.

“We think the reopening growth rates are a better indication of what we potentially will see through the end of the summer, and maybe even into the fall,” she concluded.

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