Industry Fast Facts | NBWA: America's Beer and Beverage Distributors

The U.S. Beer Industry 2020

  • In 2020, the U.S. beer industry shipped (sold) 204.8 million barrels of beer (1 barrel = 31 gallons, 1 traditional keg in a bar = half a barrel).
  • Put another way, in 2020, the U.S. beer industry shipped the equivalent of more than 2.8 billion cases of 24 12-ounce containers.
  • In addition, the industry shipped approximately 3.3 million barrels of cider, perry and other fermented products, equivalent to more than 45.5 million case equivalents.
  • In 2020, 82% of all beer was domestically produced, and 18% was imported from more than 100 different countries around the world.

            Source: U.S. TTB and U.S. Commerce Department, 2021

  • Based on beer shipment data and U.S. Census population statistics, U.S. consumers aged 21 and older consumed 26.1 gallons of beer and cider per person during 2020. About 244 million people, 75% of the population, are over the age of 21 and are considered legal drinking age. The share of the U.S. population over 21 years old has increased steadily over the past 18 years. In 2000, the share was 70%.

            Source: U.S. Census and NBWA Industry Affairs, 2021

  • In 2019, the U.S. beer industry sold about $120 billion in beer and malt-based beverages to U.S. consumers through beer retail establishments. However, in 2020 retail sales fell to $100 billion due to widespread closures of restaurants, bars, stadiums and other on-premise accounts.

           Source: Beer Institute and NBWA Industry Affairs, 2021

  • The widespread closures of on-premise retail establishments such as bars, restaurants, hotels, stadiums and event centers during 2020 resulted in a significant decline in draft (keg) beer sales. Draft beer's share of total volume fell from 10% in 2019 to about 6% in 2020. During the same time period, beer sold in can packages rose from 60% in 2019 to 67% in 2020. Glass bottles experienced the least impact, accounting for 29% of sales in 2019 and 28% in 2020.

           Source: U.S. Census and NBWA Industry Affairs, 2021

  • The alcohol beverage marketplace and the three-tier system has evolved rapidly over the years. Since 2012, over 2,300 alcohol beverage laws have been passed around the country.

      Source: NBWA Industry Affairs, 2021

 Number of Operating/Reporting Breweries – 2020

  • According to The Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau (TTB), there were 6,406 reporting brewery facilities/locations in the U.S. in 2020. This is only six more than what was reported in 2019.
  • Almost a quarter of these breweries were classified as brewpubs that mostly 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.
  • In 2020, more than 90% of all U.S. breweries made fewer than 15,000 barrels (465,000 gallons) and accounted for about 3% of total volume.
  • The 220 breweries that reported zero production and "taxable removals" typically produced beer under contract with another brewer.




The U.S. Beer Industry 2020

The industry structure has changed significantly over the past 30 years. In 1983, there were 49 breweries. At the end of 2020, there were 6,406 reporting brewers. The most recent data shows 12,532 TTB permitted breweries in the U.S. at the end of CY 2020 – an all-time high. Note that not all permitted breweries are open and/or operational. The TTB issued 948 new permits in CY 2020, and some states now have more breweries than the entire country had in 1990. 




Market Share of Brewers 2020

The share of the market for the top five brewers and importers has changed significantly over the past ten years. Since 2010, about 5% 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.


2010 Share

2020 Share

Anheuser-Busch InBev 47.9% 38.7%
Molson Coors 28.9% 21.1%
Constellation Brands 5.3% 11.3%
Mark Anthony Brands (Mike's) 0.6% 4.4%
Boston Beer Co.  1.1% 3.5%
Heineken USA 4.0% 3.2%
All Other Domestic and Imports 12.2% 17.8%
Total 100% 100%


Source: Beer Marketer’s Insights, 2021

Structural Change in the Industry

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 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 has kept up with general wage increases.


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 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. 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 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 had increased from 531,705 in 2008 to 608,387 in 2020. CY 2019 saw the first year of decline in total beer retail accounts since 2008, and the impacts of COVID-19 in 2020 have accelerated that decline.

Source: Nielsen, TDLinxtm 2021


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. 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 customer 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.

Year Average SKU
1999 185
2003 200
2006 263
2008 470
2010 536
2012 657
2014 981
2016 1,025
2018 1,174


Source: NBWA Distributor Productivity Report, 2019

Beer is the Preferred Beverage of Choice

According to the Gallup Poll, 36% 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%
2019 38% 30% 29%


Source: Gallup Poll, 2019