The industry structure has changed significantly over the past 30 years. In 1983, there were 49 breweries. At the end of 2021, the TTB reported 13,380 permitted breweries in the U.S. – an all-time high. Note that not all permitted breweries are open and/or operational. The TTB issued 848 new permits in CY 2021. Some states now have more breweries than the entire country had in 1990.
The share of the market among brewers and importers has changed significantly over the past ten years. Since 2011, the top two brewers have lost a 17% share of the market. The next group of brewers gained 12% of the market, and the remaining "All Other" group gained 5%. The continued growth in small breweries and new innovations in styles and brands makes the U.S. beer market a dynamic and competitive industry.
|Boston Beer Co||1.2%||4.0%|
|Mark Anthony Brands (Mike's).||0.7%||3.9%|
|All Other Domestic and Imports||13.1%||19.3%|
Source: Beer Marketer’s Insights, 2022
The dramatic change in the basic structure of the industry can be observed in the average annual wages paid by brewers and distributors. The chart below shows the annual average wages reported by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics Quarterly Census of Wages (QCEW). The shift in market share to smaller start-up brewers from larger established brewers shows a consistent pattern of lower annual wages for brewing industry employees. Over the same period, wages paid by beer distributors have kept up with general wage increases.
Beer distribution has seen significant changes as well. Over the years, the number of traditional beer distributors has fallen from 4,595 in 1980 to around 3,000 in 2020. However, similar to brewing, the number of new entrants into the alcohol beverage wholesaling sector has increased significantly. According to data from the TTB, there are more than 20,000 licensed alcohol beverage wholesalers. More details about the number of distributors can be found in the NBWA Membership Directory (the directory is only accessible to NBWA Membership). Additional details on jobs, wages, taxes and the economic impacts of beer distributors can be found in the NBWA Distributor Economic Impact Report.
The three-tier system of alcohol beverage regulation requires that beer distributors sell to beer retailers. The number of retail outlets that sell alcohol has grown significantly since the end of the 2008-2009 recession. Total alcohol outlets increased from 531,705 in 2008 to 608,387 in 2020. 2019 saw the first year of decline in total beer retail accounts since 2008, and the impacts of COVID-19 in 2020-2021 have accelerated that decline.
Source: Nielsen, TDLinxtm 2021
A stock keeping unit (SKU) is the primary way retailers, distributors and brewers keep track of their inventory while it passes through the supply chain. Tremendous variety in packaging tracked by SKUs in the marketplace also has grown significantly over time. Across the economy, and over time, consumers have changed the when, where and how of shopping. In response, new retail stores -- from discount to big box to convenience -- all demand more specialized and specific packaging to fit their customers needs. In 1996, the typical distributor managed 190 unique SKUs in their warehouses. As of 2018, the average stands at 1,174 SKUs. More details can be found in the NBWA Distributor Productivity Report.
Source: NBWA Distributor Productivity Report, 2019
According to the Gallup Poll, 40% of people do not consume alcohol. Although there have been articles about widespread shifts of legal drinkers from beer to spirits or wine, the annual Gallup survey has shown remarkable stability in consumer preferences over the past decade.
Source: Gallup Poll, 2021