Off-Premise Beer Sales Up 1.5 Percent Through March, Says IRI Worldwide

The latest snapshot of beer category health is out.

Market research firm IRI Worldwide, which tracks category-wide sales trends at off-premise retailers, reported yesterday that dollar sales of beer at multi-outlet and convenience stores were up 1.5 percent through March 25.

Much of that growth is being driven by imported beer, and specifically Mexican imports, dollar sales of which were up 11.5 percent during the period.

Dollar sales of craft beer, meanwhile, were up 5.3 percent, according to the firm.

Among the five largest beer companies – Anheuser-Busch InBev, MillerCoors, Constellation Brands, Heineken USA and Boston Beer – only Constellation and Boston Beer posted positive dollar sales growth, up 14.5 percent and 14.2 percent, respectively.

Boston Beer is growing to start the year, in spite of sales of its flagship Samuel Adams flagship declining 14 percent. Sales of the company’s seasonal SKU were up 69.5 percent while sales of Twisted Tea grew 22.8 percent.

A-B InBev, MillerCoors, and Heineken were down 1.2 percent, 1.6 percent, and 4.2 percent, respectively.

Among craft brewing companies, Yuengling and Sierra Nevada both grew dollar sales 5.8 percent and 3 percent, respectively.

Dollar sales for New Belgium Brewing, however, were down 4.7 percent as its flagship Fat Tire Amber Ale declined 16.8 percent.

And sales of Lagunitas Brewing products, which for years grew at a double-digit clip, were up just 2.1 percent.

Nevertheless, several other craft breweries outpaced the category, growing double-digits through March 25, including Michigan’s Founders Brewing (47 percent), Bell’s Brewery (18 percent), Dogfish Head Craft Brewery (23.9 percent), and Artisanal Brewing Ventures’ Victory Brewing and Southern Tier brands (20.4 percent).

Sales for a handful of other craft brewers were down, however. Oregon’s Deschutes Brewery saw dollar sales dip 15 percent during the period while Craft Brew Alliance, The Gambrinus Company, and North American Breweries were each down 4.5 percent, 6.9 percent, and 5.8 percent, respectively.

Among craft styles, IPA continued to lead the way, with dollar sales up 15.1 percent. Craft seasonal offerings, Belgian Wit beers, pale ales and variety packs were all about flat through March 25, according to IRI.

Sales of golden ales and pale lagers, meanwhile, were up 12.5 percent and 48.5 percent, respectively.

Other notable craft brands that grew include Elysian Space Dust IPA, sales of which were up more than 107 percent, and Founders All Day IPA, which grew 59.3 percent.