Power Hour Confirms Craft’s Upward Surge

The Brewers Association hosted its annual 2012 mid-year craft beer category sales review, this afternoon, confirming what most in the industry had already assumed: craft beer is on pace to achieve its seventh consecutive year of double-digit dollar sales growth in SIG-tracked U.S. Supermarkets.

But aside from the steady growth, there were a few more notable takeaways from the call, which featured Dan Wandel, an executive with scan data provider Symphony IRI.

Canned beers are hot

Gone is the stigma that craft beer in cans is somehow inferior and you need not look much further than the category’s second-largest craft brewer, Sierra Nevada, for proof. The company’s 12-pack, 12 oz. cans of its flagship Pale Ale is currently the 7th best new beverage alcohol package introduction in U.S. supermarkets year-to-date (YTD). The brand has generated over $1.7 million in sales and leads the way for new craft beer packages this year.

Not to be outdone, the country’s third largest craft brewer, New Belgium, owns the No. 3 rank for best new package introduction with its 4-pack of 16 oz. cans of Shift Pale Lager. That brand has generated $867,703 of sales in U.S. supermarkets YTD.

The package itself has seen a meteoric rise since 2009. There are currently 223 craft can SKUs, compared to 70 three years ago. In 2009 craft cans accounted for $3.2 million in sales at U.S. supermarkets compared to over $13.5 million already this year. 12-packs are leading the way with more than $5.5 million in sales.

Craft consumers still crave hops

The IPA category has officially surpassed the seasonal category to become the number one selling craft beer style in U.S. supermarkets. It’s already up 18 percent over last year with more than $107 million in sales.

That figure was dissected even further with help from the Brewers Association. $93 million of the sales are generated by IPA’s while $14 million are from double, triple and imperial IPA’s. Dogfish Head’s 90 Minute IPA led the way in that segment with $2.6 million in sales. Sierra Nevada’s Torpedo was the top performing beer in the IPA segment with over $14 million in sales.

But Wandel, pointing to strong closing seasonal sales in 2011, said he wasn’t convinced the IPA category will still be on top come year’s end.

Big suppliers are playing in seasonal space

Five of the top ten seasonal beer brands – in the past the place where craft performed best — are from non-craft players, including the MillerCoors-owned Leinenkugel brand, which owns the number 2 rank and has already generated over $20 million in sales at U.S. supermarkets this year. That figure is a huge leap from the $2.8 million of seasonal sales the brand generated at U.S. supermarkets for the entirety of 2008. Other notable non-craft brands experiencing seasonal success are Blue Moon, Mike’s Hard Lemonade and Shock Top.

New brands

Deschutes Brewery introduced its new White IPA in January, limiting the release of six and twelve-packs to just Oregon, Washington and Idaho initially. It’s the number one new introduction this year, with over $1 million in supermarket sales. Pyramid’s Outburst Imperial IPA is a close second with $953,000 in sales. Another notable new craft introduction worthy of a mention is Samuel Adams Whitewater IPA, a direct competitor to Chainbreaker. Whitewater ranks fourth on the list with over $711,000 in sales.

Craft continues to develop in convenience

Craft beer sales in the convenience channel have been steadily increasing over the past four-and-a-half years. Wandel noted that craft had only 994 SKU’s in Symphony IRI-tracked convenience stores in 2008. That number has increased to 1,408 through July 8th of 2012.

Still, craft still only owns a 2 percent dollar share of overall beer sales in the channel, led by 6-pack, 12 oz. bottle sales which command nearly 70 percent of the total craft dollar share. And the growth remains healthy: last year, craft sales were up 13.9 percent in convenience store sales, according to figures released by the National Association of Convenience Stores in April.

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