Preliminary data on the beer industry from 2015 indicate volumes (case sales) to be flat to slightly up year over year – holding at around 2.9 billion case equivalents. On the surface, a zero growth industry does not look like much to talk about; however, beneath the surface the changes across segments, packaging and consumer preferences are significant to brewers, distributors and their retail partners.

Across the major segments of the industry, crafts and imports both grabbed significant share of the market from the macro segment. The table below shows that almost 2.5 percent of industry volumes shifted from the macro segment into the craft and import segments in 2015. Volume growth in these two segments compensated for declines in the larger macro segment. New domestic craft brewers and strong import gains from Mexico, Netherlands and Belgium helped lift the high end segment of the beer business to record heights in 2015.   

Significant changes in macro trends also occurred in packaging. The package mix chart below shows the relationship between cans, bottles and draft packaging. These estimates include both domestic and import volumes.
 
The beer can package has increased its share of market every year since 2010 from 52.8 percent to 55.5 percent. In fact, for the past two years, the loss in volume for bottles has been fully compensated with growth in can packages. With so many new small brewers expanding into new retail channels, the can package is the clear winner for gaining shelf space and consumer interest at retail. Meanwhile, the overall market for draft beer continues to trend around 10 percent of the market, with only slight changes in trends each year. The draft beer market continues to represent a highly competitive space for the industry in markets around the country.
 
With 2016 well underway, the NBWA is watching to see where the industry is headed and what trends may emerge. February’s Beer Purchasers’ Index (BPI) indicated a swing from January’s 2015 contraction (BPI=48) to mild expansion in February (BPI=53). However, note that the total industry index values in both of the first two months of 2016 are six points below the 2015 recorded index, suggesting total purchases are trending lower in 2016 versus 2015. The import segment in February 2016 (BPI=62) is the only segment that expanded above the February 2015 index (BPI=60). Craft and FMBs also are expanding; however their index readings are both below 2015 values, indicating a slowdown for these two segments.

 

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For additional information, please contact NBWA Chief Economist Lester Jones at ljones@nbwa.org.