April 7th is National Beer Day, and many Americans have reason to celebrate. According to a recent Nielsen survey conducted by Harris Poll, nearly 9 out of every 10 (88%) of U.S. beer drinkers say that it’s a great time to be a beer lover. And when you think of the growing expanse of beer available to consumers, you can’t blame them for their passion.
While beer has been challenged by wine and especially spirits, the beer category overall continues to grow in size, generating more than $36 billion in Nielsen-measured retail channels (excluding bars and restaurants) in the last 12 months. So far, this trend looks set to continue. 2016 is looking up for beer, with a dollar sales growth of 4.6% compared to this time last year. And various segments within beer are far outpacing these dollar growth rates: Craft beer is up 14.0% in the last 52 weeks, and imported beers are up 10.7 % over the same period, driven in large part by double-digit growth rates for imported Mexican beers. Innovation in the category continues to drive growth, too. New hard sodas (all flavors, including hard root beers) launched in the past couple of years have contributed to 17% of beer growth in the last 52 weeks.
So who are these passionate beer fans driving this industry’s growth?
With so much talk about Millennials and beer, you might expect the sentiment that it’s a great time to be a beer lover to be most popular among younger Millennials aged 21-29, but it’s actually the thirty-something beer drinkers that are the most enthused. An astounding 95% of respondents aged 30-39 say it’s a great time to be a beer lover. Perhaps this age group is old enough to appreciate the diverse selection of beer that is currently available compared to those who are less experienced with the category. Thirty-something beer drinkers differentiate themselves in a few other ways. For example, more of them say they enjoy trying new types of beer (85%, compared with 70% of all U.S. beer drinkers), and they are even more passionate fans of local beer (76% vs. 64%).
Seasonal beers—such as pumpkin beers and shandies—are helping engage drinkers by offering rotating styles and flavors, but not all beer drinkers turn to seasonal offerings as their favorite beers. Only 40% of regular beer drinkers said their favorite beers change with the season. However, younger beer drinkers are more likely to agree with that statement. Beer drinkers in their 30s (59%) are most likely to turn to seasonal flavors as their favorites, and younger twenty-something drinkers (21-24) have similar preferences, with 56% saying seasonal flavors are their favorites. Meanwhile, older twenty-somethings (age 25-29) are slightly less likely to change their favorite beers with the seasons (46%).
Boomers largely favor year-round offerings—only 26% of Boomers saying that their favorite beers change with the season. They likely have more established and regular beer favorites and developed these preferences when the craft movement was less established.
When it comes to craft beers, local beers are taking center stage. While 64% of overall beer drinkers say that they are fans of local beers, that figure jumps to 86% for craft beer drinkers. And in many local markets, it’s the locally produced brands that lead the way. In Seattle, for example, four of the top five craft beers are from that region.
With consumers’ fondness for beer and an abundance of choice in stores and at the bar, it’s no wonder consumers think it’s a good time to be a beer lover. And that means it’s also a great time to be a beer distributor or seller. Opportunities are abundant for those tapping into these many trends—from Millennials just taking a liking to beer or long-standing beer drinkers to pub goers searching for a local craft brew or those already excited about summer’s grapefruit-flavored beers. Cheers!