Craft Sales Drive Beer

beerFollowing a solid 2009, the Brewers Association, the trade association representing the majority of U.S. brewing companies, reported strong 2010 numbers for small and independent craft brewers. Dollar sales were up 12% in the first half of 2010, compared to 9% growth during the same period in 2009. Volume of craft brewed beer sold grew 9% for the first six months in 2010, compared to 5% growth in the first half of 2009.

Barrels sold by craft brewers for the first half of 2010, the most recent numbers available at presstime, were 4.6 million, compared to 4.2 million barrels sold in the first half of 2009.

“While craft brewer sales volume climbed 9% in the first half of 2010, overall U.S. beer industry volume sales were down 2.7% in that time,” said Paul Gatza, director of the Brewers Association. “There is a movement by beer lovers to the innovative and flavorful beers created by America’s small and independent craft brewers. More people are starting to think of craft-brewed beer first when they buy in restaurants, bars and convenience stores.”

The U.S. now boasts 1,625 breweries–an increase of 100 additional breweries since July of 2009–and the highest number in 100 years.

Growing wine sales are at least partly to blame. “Wine continues to siphon off beer sales as consumers age and the price-value equation continues to lean more and more toward wine,” noted Tim Cote, vice president of marketing for Plaid Pantries Inc. in Beaverton, Ore., which operates 100 stores in Oregon and Washington. “This trend has accelerated recently as ‘big beer’ took another round of increases in late 2010, while wine did not.”

Spirits and liquor notched sales of nearly $44 million in c-stores for the 52 weeks ended Jan. 2, 2011, up 8.94%, according to the SymphonyIRI Group. For the same period, beer sales totaled just over $15 billion, down 0.29%.

Craft Beers Grow in Popularity

While spirits barely edged out beer as the most popular alcoholic beverage enjoyed by consumers between 2009-2010, the market has hardly fallen flat. According to latest research from Mintel International, domestic beer is the clear favorite, followed by imported varieties, but 33% of all beer drinkers aged 21 and up are drinking less imported beer because they’re drinking more domestic craft beer instead.

Only a modest percentage of beer drinkers (13%) say they prefer domestic craft or microbrew beers (compared to 43% for domestic and 22% for imported), but an impressive 59% say they like to try them, and 51% would try more craft or microbrew beers if they knew more about them. It seems that consumer education is the key to cultivating growth in the craft/microbrew market, according to Mintel research. Other notable results include:

29% Number of beer drinkers 21 and over that reported drinking less craft beer than they did a year ago due to price.

28% Percentage of beer consumers who reported drinking more beer than they did a year ago and said they were drinking more craft/microbrew beers as an affordable luxury.

51% Beer drinkers that would try more craft or microbrew beers if they knew more about them.

SOURCE: Mintel International

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