A Flat Year for Beer Sales

Trends favor craft and imported brews

beer consumption

NORWALK, Conn. -- Innovation was a driving force for the U.S. beer industry in 2014, but not enough to grow the business. Despite improving economic conditions, beer business declined very slightly, by 0.1%, according to the Beverage Information Group's 2015 Beer Handbook. Beer consumer preferences continued to evolve, as disposable income increased and economic conditions improved.

The craft-beer category grew by 15.2% in 2014, coincidently up 2.8 billion 2.25-gallon cases, not quite enough to counterbalance the overall beer-industry decrease. The growth in craft affirms the trend of consumers switching to local, up-and-coming breweries. Imported beers from Mexico are also trending up, with growth coming from various demographic segments.

Younger consumers are more engaged with brands that offer a level of distinction. Two-thirds of respondents to a recent poll cited local production as being "important," leading major brewers to follow the trend. MillerCoors shut down a larger North Carolina brewery, yet purchased a small craft brewery in California, according to the report. Consumers are keen on supporting businesses in their regional area, creating a personal connection with the brand.

The rise and success of smaller breweries like Small Town Brewery, maker of Not Your Father's Root Beer, is leading to new innovation among larger brewers. There are several varieties of "hard soda" and other categories scheduled for future release from major brands. Ciders continued to remain popular alternatives to traditional beers, growing at a rate of over 65% to 28.2 million cases.