Industry Fast Facts | NBWA: America's Beer Distributors

The U.S. Beer Industry 2018

  • In 2018, the U.S. beer industry shipped (sold) 202.2 million barrels of beer  – equivalent to more than 2.8 billion cases of 24-12 ounce servings.
  • In addition, the industry shipped approximately 2.3 million barrels of cider, equivalent to more than 32.2 million cases.

    Source: U.S. Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau (TTB) and U.S. Commerce Department, 2019.
  • In 2018, 82 percent of all beer was domestically produced, and 18 percent was imported from more than 100 different countries around the world.

    Source: TTB and U.S. Commerce, 2019
  • Based on beer shipment data and U.S. Census population statistics, U.S. consumers 21 years and older consumed 26.5 gallons of beer and cider per person during 2018.

    Source: NBWA Industry Affairs, 2019
  • About 241.4 million people, 73.8 percent of the population, are over the age of 21 and considered legal drinking age. The share of the U.S. population over 21 has increased steadily over the past 10 years. In 2006, the share was 71 percent.

    Source: U.S. Census and NBWA Industry Affairs, 2019
  • The U.S. beer industry sells more than $119.3 billion in beer and malt-based beverages to U.S. consumers each year.

    Source: Beer Institute Annual Report, 2018

Number of Operating/Reporting Breweries – 2017

  • According to TTB preliminary reports, there were 5,648 reporting brewery facilities/locations in the United States in 2017. This is an increase of about 552 from 2016 reports.
  • Almost a quarter of these breweries were classified as brewpubs that only brew beer for direct-to-consumer sale on brewery-restaurant premises.
  • Brewpubs typically brew less than 1,000 barrels (31,000 gallons) of beer per year, though larger chains have emerged around the country.
  • 95 percent of all breweries make fewer than 15,000 barrels (465,000 gallons) per year and account for less than 4 percent of total volume.


The U.S. Beer Industry 2018

The industry structure has changed significantly over the past 30 years. In 1983, there were 49 breweries. At the end of 2017 there were 5,648 reporting brewers, and by the end of CY 2017 the most recent data show there were 10,115 TTB permitted breweries in the United States – an all-time high. Note that not all permitted breweries are open and/or operational. The TTB issued 1,252 new permits in CY 2018 and some states now have more breweries than the enitire country had in 1990. The brewery expansions parallel the business cycle expansion from 2010 to 2018 and the industry stands out in an economy that has been sluggish and subpar relative to past business cycles. New breweries have continued to find growth opportunities in the beer market.



Market Share of Brewers 2018

The share of market for the top five brewers and importers has changed significantly over the past ten years. Since 2017, more than 9 percent of the market volume has shifted from large brewers and importers to smaller brewers and importers. The continued growth in small, upstart breweries makes the U.S. beer market a dynamic and competitive industry.


2008 Share

2018 Share

Anheuser-Busch Inbev 48.8% 40.8%
MillerCoors, LLC 29.4% 23.5%
Constellation 5.3% 9.9%
Heineken USA 4.2% 3.5%
Pabst Brewing 2.7% 2.1%
All Other Domestic and Imports 9.6% 20%
Total 100% 100%


Source: Beer Marketer’s Insights, 2019


Beer Distribution

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 2018. 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. Additional details on jobs, wages, taxes and the economic impacts of beer distributors can be found in the NBWA Distributor Economic Impact Report.


Alcohol Beverage Retail

The number of retail outletts that sell alcohol has grown significantly since the end of the 2008-2009 recession. Total alcohol outletts have gone from 531,705 in 2008 to 643,268 in 2018. 

Source: Nielsen, TDLinxtm 2019


Packaging and SKUs

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. Tremdous 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 they shop. In response, new retail stores - from discounters, to big box, to category killers and convenience stores all demand more specialized and specific packaging to fit their customer needs. In 1996, the typical distributor managed 190 unique SKUs in their warehouses. As of 2016, the average statnds at 1,025 SKUs. More detials can be found in the The NBWA Distibutor Prodictivity Report

Year Average SKU
1999 185
2003 200
2006 263
2008 470
2010 536
2012 657
2014 981
2016 1,025


Source: NBWA Distributor Productivity Report

Beer is the Preferred Beverage of Choice

According to the Gallup Poll, 36 percent 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.

Consumer Preferences in Beer, Wine and Spirits
Year Beer Wine Spirits
2001 46% 31% 18%
2002 44% 30% 22%
2003 42% 33% 22%
2004 39% 33% 24%
2005 39% 36% 21%
2006 41% 33% 23%
2007 40% 34% 22%
2008 42% 31% 23%
2009 40% 34% 21%
2010 41% 32% 21%
2011 36% 35% 23%
2012 39% 35% 22%
2013 36% 35% 23%
2014 41% 31% 23%
2015 42% 34% 21%
2016 43% 32% 20%
2017 40% 30% 26%
2018 42% 34% 28%


Source: Gallup Poll, 2018