Overall Beer Category Has Some Work to Do

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Overall Beer Category Has Some Work to Do


NEW YORK — Beer continues to be a massive category in the United States, but over the last few years, consumption has stagnated, losing ground to wine and spirits, and causing a sharp decline in sales growth.

While off-premise dollar sales growth in the craft beer realm alone had ranged between just over 15 percent to just over 18 percent from 2013 through early 2016, off-premise sales growth of craft beer for the year ended Jan. 28, 2017 came in at just under 3 percent — a sizeable decrease. 

At the same time, dollar sales growth in the overall beer category ranged between 1.3 percent and 3.5 percent, according to a Nielsen consumer report.  

Much of the aforementioned sales growth can be attributed to increased prices, not necessarily increased beer consumption. Beer has lost some of its footing over the past roughly five years, with consumers across generations spending more on wine and spirits without increasing their overall alcoholic beverage spending, the researcher pointed out. 

One bright spot is “above premium” beer — a group that includes craft — which is significantly outperforming “below premium” and “domestic premium” beer. While it remains true that “domestic premium” beer makes up the largest part of the market share, sales have been sliding, while sales of “above premium” beer have been on the rise, Nielsen research shows.

The most popular styles of craft beer continue to be India Pale Ales (IPAs) and seasonal offerings. For the year ended Jan. 28, 2017, IPAs claimed the top spot, racking up more than $1 billion in sales.

In addition to favoring IPAs, beer consumers seem to be more eager than ever to try new brands and varieties. Mature craft brands with more than 1-percent market share have experienced nearly a 2-percent dip in sales growth over the last couple of years, while brands with less than 0.1 percent of the market share have seen a 12-percent increase in sales growth.

Imports, like craft, are considered “above premium.” In the U.S., the most significant import volume has been from Mexico, with sales growing considerably over the last three years — 14 percent, 15.4 percent and 13.7 percent, respectively. Dutch beers come in second, while beers imported from Belgium, Costa Rica and France are also experiencing sales-growth increases.

"...The overall beer category has some work to do in order to keep from losing more ground to wine and spirits — particularly among millennials," a recent Nielsen report stated.

In order to increase beer sales, it’s vital to know where the growth is in the category. Knowing that will help retain consumers, particularly millennials, who might be more inclined to seek out wine and spirits when in the market for an alcoholic beverage, according to the researcher.

Headquartered in New York, Nielsen Holdings plc is a global performance management company that provides a comprehensive understanding of what consumers watch and buy.