U.S. Beer Consumption Declines Light and Imports Down, Craft Beer Continues to Rise

Last year marked the third consecutive year of diminishing growth rates in the beer industry, dropping 2.1% to 2.877 billion cases. According to the Beverage Information Group’s recently released 2010 Beer Handbook, the beer industry’s downturn can be directly attributed to the decline in the light beer segment. Light beer, which accounts for a 52.8% share of the U.S. beer market, posted its first negative year since its beginning 30 years ago.

Other segments of the beer industry differed in their 2009 results. Imports declined 6.9% to 359.6 million 2.25-gallon cases, while the craft beer segment increased 7.0%. Craft beer continues to grow at an extraordinary rate, due to the abundance of flavors and types that attract both young and old consumers. Expanded distribution also continues to be a key driver for growth in this segment. It is clear that the “trading up” trend that began before the recession has continued despite the changing economy.

The premium, super premium and flavored malt liquor segments all faced declines; but the popular and ice segments both had slight upticks due to their value price point and strong consumer bases.

The beer industry’s future remains tentative with slow growth expected over the next five years as the country recovers from a struggling economy. Favorable demographics, continued growth of the craft beer segment and success of value-priced beer will help slow declines in the beer category.

“The growth of the beer industry has slowed every year since 2006,” says Eric Schmidt, Manager of Information Services for the Beverage Information Group based in Norwalk, Conn. “There are hints that this slowing will end in 2010, but projections are still forecasting a downturn in the short term.”

The cost of the 2010 Beer Handbook is $755; handbook with companion CD is $925. Shipping and handling is $10 for U.S. orders; $20 for all other orders. The handbook and CD can be purchased at www.beveragehandbooks.com or by calling Cynthia Porter at (630) 762-8709.