Craft Beer Growing Fast in Convenience Channel

BOSTON -- Craft beer is enjoying impressive growth in the convenience store channel. And although that growth is coming off a small base, there is clearly an opportunity for craft beer to gain cooler space.

In a recent report, investment bank UBS examined beer sales at convenience stores from six beer companies, including Boston Beer Co. Analyzing data provided by global retail sales information provider, Nielsen, the report provided a snapshot of the overall state of beer sales in the convenience channel.

As reported, in the convenience channel, Boston Beer's craft brands grew by 15 percent over a 52-week period ending Jan. 19 in the channel. That number is compared to just 4-percent dollar growth in food, drug and other mass market retailers.

While those convenience growth figures are off a small base, according to UBS beverage analyst Kaumil Gajrawala, who wrote the report, they represent a growing part of the brewer's overall retail picture. As with other channels where craft has made incursions, Gajrawala wrote that he sees "expansion into c-stores as a growth opportunity for the craft(y) players."

Danny Brager, the head of Nielsen's beverage alcohol group, confirmed to that overall beer sales in c-stores were up just 5.1 percent in 2012 while craft beer sales were up 27.1 percent. In broader retail channels like food and drug, Nielsen puts sales growth for craft at 18.3 percent.

"Craft is growing faster in c-stores [of course] on a much lower base," Brager said.

Nielsen statistics are consistent with figures given to bySymphony IRI. Sales of craft beer in convenience are up 21 percent through the 52-week period ending Jan. 27, 2013, according to the Chicago-based market research firm.