by Andrea Riberi, Senior Vice President, Professional Services, Nielsen
Could it be the beginning of a beer boom? Beer sales are seeing a surge in growth, up 5 million cases (1.4 percent) in the last 12 weeks through September 1, 2012, in Nielsen-measured retail outlets. The same period last year saw a decline of 1.7 million cases.
Choice Drives Sales
With more options on shelves and innovative product offerings, new consumers were attracted to the beer category. Nearly half of the households who were new to malt, or cider-based beverages (beer, flavored malt beverages and cider) in the past six months had bridged over from solely buying wine or spirits last year.
What’s Driving Change?
Innovation in flavors, formats and packaging has played a key role in driving beer sales. The summer of 2012 saw more new brands, cider options, packaging options and flavor diversity than in the previous year. There were 582 new brands introduced. This summer saw 17 new flavored malt-beverage brands (compared to 11 last year), and 14 more cider brands on the market. There were more than 20 new flavors, such as Bacon Maple and Blue Raspberry Lemonade, introduced to the category.
Packaging innovations have also increased the ways in which beer can be enjoyed. Alcoholic beverage pouches, many of them malt-based, lend themselves to new drinking occasions. Within the beer category, aluminum pints represented the majority of packaging growth.
Increased distribution of brands across all beer segments–in more regions and channels– also contributed to growth, helping import and domestic brands alike. Craft brands with strong regional equity also increased their national presence. Over two-thirds of category growth came from the convenience channel, due to its expanded offerings. Growth is expected to continue in more emerging channels, such as the dollar channel, as they expand their beer footprint.
How Can Manufacturers and Retailers Profit from the Boom?
Manufacturers can ride the wave of beer’s resurgence by continuing to offer consumers a variety of truly unique options and formats. Unique flavor and packaging innovation is crucial for continued category expansion. Continued growth in palette-pleasing flavors will attract different, potentially non-traditional-beer drinking consumers. While retailers are limited by their physical space, they can still develop and fine-tune their assortment to attract and satisfy consumers, offering them a spectrum of options that meets different shoppers’ needs.
Is the Growth Sustainable?
Fall and winter can be traditionally tougher seasons for beer. However, manufacturers and retailers can offer consumers an alternative to wine and spirits with flavored malt beverages, cider and seasonal beer offerings. Through compelling flavor, packaging and seasonal offerings, they can pull in drinkers from other traditional categories in the fall and winter seasons. Cider, for instance, normally sells well through fall and is skyrocketing in growth.
Beer is definitely on the comeback trail, and we’ll stay tuned to see just how bright the last quarter of 2012 may be for beer.