According to market research firm IRI Worldwide, both dollar and volume sales of domestic premium beer brands declined in 2017, while craft, imported, and domestic super premium beers sales climbed. Total U.S. beer sales exceeded $34 billion, essentially falling flat, with volume sales decreasing 0.4 percent and dollar sales increasing 1.2 percent.
Here’s the breakdown:
- Domestic premium brands (Bud, Bud Light, Miller Lite, Coors Light, etc.) saw dollar sales decline 2.9 percent, more than $398 million, to about $13 billion. Volume sales declined 3.8 percent.
- Craft dollar sales increased 5.6 percent to more than $4 billion, with volume increasing 3.6 percent.
- Domestic super premiums (like Michelob Ultra) increased 11.3 percent to more than $2.5 billion, with volume sales increasing 9.4 percent.
- Imported beer dollar sales increased 8.4 percent to more than $6.5 billion.
- Dollar sales of domestic sub-premium beer, flavored malt beverages, cider, and non-alcoholic beer decreased respectively by 1.1 percent, 3.5 percent, 3.1 percent and 0.7 percent.
(And, because we know you’re wondering: Anheuser-Busch InBev’s dollar sales declined 1.2 percent, more than $187 million, to $14.9 billion, with volume sales declining 2.2 percent in 2017. Budweiser and Bud Light sales are down, yes. But dollar sales for Goose Island IPA and Elysian Space Dust IPA are very much on the rise.)
IRI’s report identified the top-selling craft beer manufacturer as Boston Beer (owner of Samuel Adams, Angry Orchard, and Twisted Tea). It also identified the top-selling “craft” brand as Blue Moon Belgian White, which is owned by Molson Coors and not considered a “craft” brand by the Brewers Association. The second-largest craft brand for 2017 was Sierra Nevada Pale Ale.
Although the craft category grew overall, craft beer’s big names are suffering in off-premise sales. Boston Beer, the top-selling beer manufacturer, lost $15 million in off-premise sales in 2017. North American Breweries, Deschutes Brewery, Craft Brew Alliance, and the Gambrinus Company also showed declining dollar sales. Sierra Nevada Pale Ale declined more than $10 million (8.1 percent) in dollar sales, and sales by volume are down 9.1 percent. Other decreases by volume included: Sierra Nevada Torpedo Extra IPA (-5.5 percent); New Belgium Fat Tire (-12.5 percent); Shock Top (-7.5 percent), Boston Beer’s Samuel Adams Boston Lager (-11.8 percent), and Revel IPA (-23.1 percent).
On the other hand, growth was reported for three large “craft” suppliers: Yuengling, New Belgium, and Lagunitas.
The brewery with the strongest growth reported among IRI’s top 25 vendors was Founders Brewing Company, whose dollar sales increased 42.6 percent and whose volume sales increased 51.8 percent, thanks largely in part to All Day IPA — that brand alone grew 50.3 percent year over year.
Regional craft breweries with dollar sales growth in 2017 included Bell’s Brewery (18.6 percent), Firestone Walker (16.2 percent), Artisanal Brewing Ventures — which combines Victory Brewing and Southern Tier Brewing (16.1 percent) — Sweetwater Brewing (15.9 percent), Stone Brewing (14.5 percent), Dogfish Head (14.7 percent), and New Glarus (11 percent).
So. What does all this mean?
Basically, U.S. drinkers are drinking less beer by volume but spending more by the dollar. Although Anheuser-Busch remains the world’s largest brewer, sales of its top brands, as well as similar brands from other global producers, are declining. Meanwhile, craft beer sales by volume — including those recognized as such by the BA, like Founders, as well as those that are unofficially craft, like Blue Moon — are on the rise.
That said, craft beer still has a long way to go, with much room for growth. The craft brewers that are hurting the most are in fact the largest, whose size makes growth difficult due to competition from above (A-B) and below (smaller, hyper-local craft brands).
On the whole, this is a good thing. Trends are showing that we’re starting to spend less on domestic premium brands and more on craft brands.
Will Mary Jane Dance With Beer?
A possible competitor to all beer — and booze as we know it — is the muse of many brewers herself, Mary Jane.
Earlier this month, the legal sale of recreational cannabis in California officially began. This was a victorious moment for many, but a point of contention for U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions, a.k.a. Buzz Killington.
Beer industry members weighed in on what effect cannabis may have on the industry, offering their perspectives to Brewbound last week.
Some say that beer consumers have already had access to cannabis, so things shouldn’t change much now that marijuana is legal. Others, like Modern Times founder and CEO Jacob McKean, see opportunity in beer and bud cross-marketing.
Overall, a majority of sources believe legalized recreational weed will have little impact on beer, as the two tend to go hand in hand, sometimes literally.
Brewers Association Awards $432K to Hop and Barley Research
Since the polarizing media stunt that was the Brewers Association’s Take Craft Back campaign (which received a decent amount of support and criticism from beer industry members), the BA has announced tangible boosts with its 2018 Research and Service Grants Program. A total of 17 grants totaling $432,658 were awarded to universities and research organizations to fund development of the beer supply chain’s raw materials, namely aiming to advance the development of hops and barley in healthy and sustainable ways.
2018 partners for the BA grants include USDA Agricultural Research Service, Oregon State University, Montana State University, and the University of Minnesota.
The BA has awarded more than $1.2 million in grant funding since the program’s inception in 2015, with topics including hop aroma, hop disease, and hop variety development. Here’s to hoping next year’s list of projects includes haze-inducing hop and barley varietals.