Power Hour: There’s No Slowing Down the IPA


The IPA continues to reign as the most popular style in American craft beer, but just how big could the style get in an industry that proudly touts a bevy of diverse flavors? According to Dan Wandel, principal of Beverage Alcohol Clients Insights for IRI, the IPA style alone is positioning itself to leap ahead of the entire “Progressive Adult Beverage” category in terms of popularity.

“It may not happen in 2015,” he clarified, but the sentiment was clear: the IPA segment is poised for continued, indefatigable growth.

That perspective came yesterday during the IRI Power Hour, in which the Chicago-based market research company partnered with the Brewers Association to put the blazing hot style under a microscope.

In supermarkets, IPA sales grew to more than $342 million, according to Wandel, representing a 41 percent increase over 2013 figures. IRI tracked 117 new IPA brands last year, which accounted for more than 10 percent of category growth (at $35 million). In all, there were 1,165 craft IPA SKUs tracked in super markets in 2014, a 15.5 percent uptick over the year prior.

Broken down by sub-style under the IPA umbrella, American IPAs were the best selling, pulling in more than $217 million in the channel. Imperial IPAs, the second best selling, earned more than $85 million. Rounding out the top three, the low ABV session sub-style hit the market harder than any other, totaling sales of more than $11 million for growth of nearly 339 percent.

“It’s really interesting to see once we peel back the onion on IPA how even some of the sub-styles of IPA are becoming so prominent,” said Wandel.

But not all sub-styles enjoyed the same kind of growth. Sales of Belgian/White IPAs ($2.1 million) and “other” (red, rye, brown) IPAs ($1.7 million) declined 21.5 percent and 12.2 percent in the channel, respectively.

There wasn’t a new-to-market IPA brand that stormed the market with the same ferocity as Boston Beer’s Sam Adams Rebel IPA did in 2014, however — sales eclipsed $21 million in U.S. supermarkets. By comparison, the second strongest new entry was Deschutes’ Fresh Squeezed IPA, which totaled just over $3 million in sales in the channel.

The top 10 new IPA craft brands in supermarkets included:

  • Sam Adams Rebel IPA ($21 million)
  • Deschutes Fresh Squeezed IPA ($3 million)
  • Widmer Brothers Upheaval IPA  ($2.4 million)
  • Stone Go To IPA ($2 million)
  • Anchor IPA ($698,488)
  • Ballast Point Grapefruit Sculpin IPA (($378,418)
  • Rhinegeist Truth IPA ($363,303)
  • Hangar 24 Betty IPA ($239,082)
  • Terrapin Hi 5 IPA ($228,269)
  • Ballast Point Habanero Sculpin IPA ($224,560)

Package wise, 12-pack sales had their highest share in the American and session styles, 4-packs in Imperial, and single bottles in Belgian/White.

There was a similar IPA growth story on-premise as well. IPAs were up more than 25 percent, with more than 1,300 brands tracked.

While most of the call was devoted to IPA, Wandel also highlighted a few additional noteworthy growth statistics.

–       The craft segment increased dollar sales in supermarkets more than 18 percent in 2015, the highest boost since 2003, according to Wandel, who also warned that continued double-digit growth would be a challenge. The entire beer category was “flat,” with supermarket sales up just 4 percent.

–       SweetWater Brewing climbed three spots to secure its position as the 9th best-selling craft vendor in supermarkets. Founders and Firestone also made their way into the top 15.

–       Through February 22 of this year, craft dollar sales were up more than 18 percent in supermarkets.