Beer Sales Struggle in Experimental Marketplace

New report shows volume down 1.1% across all channels

NORWALK, Conn. -- It was a rough year for the beer category, as total volume fell 1.1% to 2.8 billion cases in 2017, according to the newly released Beverage Information Group's 2018 Beer Handbook.

While the craft and imported beer segments showed growth and increased market share, total beer consumption has declined for five consecutive years, as U.S. consumers turn more to spirits and wine, the report said.

The craft beer segment grew 4.9% in 2017 to 310 million cases (2.25 gallons per case). While craft beer's growth has slowed from 6% for the past two years, the category has pushed its market share to 11.1% in 2017, up from 10.4% in 2016 and 9.8% in 2015. Still, the oversaturation of some local/regional markets has hurt craft beer. Another factor affecting craft beer: U.S. consumers have never been more experimental or less brand-loyal, the report said.

The imported beer segment was up 3.5% to 470.7 million cases, increasing its market share a bit to 16.8% in 2017. Beers imported from Mexico continue to thrive, as consumers see these brands as a step up in flavor and quality from macro U.S. lagers, while also representing a product that's appealingly authentic.

Flavored malt beverages (FMBs) were up 1.3%, reaching 112.3 million cases in 2017. The category's growth has cooled considerably, as it was fueled largely by gains in the Bud Light Rita's line, which has slowed in recent years.

Beer segments that have dropped include:

  • Light beer, down 3.1% in 2017 to 1.22 billion cases.
  • Popular beer, down 2.5% to 180.9 million cases.
  • Superpremium and premium beers, which fell 3.7% in 2017 to 371.5 million cases.
  • Malt Liquor, down 4.3% to 52.8 million cases.

These segments of the beer category don't represent the current trend of "craft" or "premium" beverages, which makes it more difficult to connect with modern consumers.               

The Norfolk, Conn.-based Beverage Information Group's 2018 Beer Handbook is a comprehensive source of information on U.S. beer industry sales trends. It includes consumption and projection information by category and market, tracks leading brands and reports historical data.

Photograph: Shutterstock

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