‘Perfect Storm’ Puts Beer Category in Flux

CHICAGO — Consumers are gravitating toward more flavorful and stylistically unique beers, as evidenced by the growth of imported beer and craft beer, along with the expansion in flavored malt beverages and cider, according to Technomic's 2014 BeerTAB Report. In step with this trend, the study also pointed out the contraction in mainstream domestic regular and light beer.

"It's really a perfect storm scenario that's creating opportunities for some beer marketers and headaches for others," observed Donna Hood Crecca, senior director at Technomic. "An industry once dominated by a handful of brands is now increasingly diverse in terms of producers, styles and flavors. Growth is occurring among the smaller brands and categories, while the larger brands are losing volume."

In addition, divergent consumer spending patterns are in play. "The core mainstream domestic beer consumer that was impacted by the recession remains somewhat challenged, so value beer is suffering," maintained Crecca. "At the same time, many consumers are trading up to higher priced craft, imported and super-premium beers. The result is decline at the lower price tiers and growth at the high end."

Adding to this scenario is encroachment on traditional beer occasions by spirits and wine. Today's consumers — Millennials, in particular — drink a range of adult beverages, putting beer in contention with cocktails, mixed drinks, table wine and sparkling wine for on-premise and off-premise purchases.

"It's a challenging time for the industry overall, but some categories and brands are having a breakout year,” Crecca said.

The 2014 BeerTAB Report is part of Technomic's Trends in Adult Beverage series and provides an in-depth look at national volume and sales information on beer categories, brands and suppliers, as well as actionable outlooks and projections, and consumer insights around beer purchases on-premise and at retail.

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