While certain segments of the beer category demonstrated strong gains in 2016, the overall category decreased by 0.3% to end the year with 2.83 billion 2.25-gallon cases, according to the Beverage Information Group’s 2017 Beer Handbook. Continued economic growth, employment gains, and evolving consumer preferences are contributing factors in the evolution of the beer industry.
The Imported beer segment enjoyed another year of strong volume performance, growing 6.7% to 454.4 million 2.25-gallon cases. This continued success helped push the import’s market share to 16% in 2016. The segment last peaked in 2007 when it reached 13.8% with 408.3 million 2.25-gallon cases before slipping each year until 2014, which began a string of years with positive sales gains.
The Craft beer segment grew 6.0% in 2016 to 300-million 2.25-gallon cases, the same growth rate as in the prior year. Remarkedly it surpassed the 10% market share for the first time, reaching 10.4% up from 9.8% in 2015. The craft explosion, however, is beginning to show signs that it’s losing steam. As the numbers of Millennials continues to grow so does their penchant for experimentation across brands and categories. On the upside for the craft segment is the growing number of regional and micro- breweries, topping 5,234 in 2016. With so many new offerings hitting the marketplace, Millennials may still find crafts appealing.
Flavored Malt Beverages (FMBs) leveled off in 2016 after experiencing growth of 7.5%, 8.2% and 21% the last three years, respectively. In 2016 FMBs accounted for 110 million 2.25-gallon cases, growing just 2.4%. The reason for this slow down begins at the top. Segment leader Bud Light Rita’s line had been growing at double and triple-digits since its introduction in 2012. In 2015 that momentum suddenly halted to just 0.5% growth, with growth in 2016 of only 0.1%. Still at 30.7 million 2.25-gallon cases, the brand is still a powerhouse and the segment leader.
The Super and Premium beer segments suffered in 2016 from the same problem as the Light beer segment: there’s a general malaise towards them for not being craft beer. Overall, the segment lost 13.3 million 2.25-gallon cases in 2016, shrinking to finish the year with 385.8 million 2.25-gallon cases. The super and premium segment commanded a 13.6% share of beer industry.
The Light beer segment is also under fire, slipping 2.6% in 2016, despite it being the largest segment in the industry with a whopping 44.5% market share. The light segment sold 1.26 billion 2.25-gallon case in 2016, 33 million fewer cases than in 2015. Among the 23 beers included in the 2017 Beer Handbook’s top light brands, only Michelob Ultra registered positive sales, finishing in 6th place with 70.8 million 2.25-gallon cases sold, an uptick of 18.4% over 2015.
The Popular beer segment continued its steady decline in recent years with only 6.5% of the overall beer market. The segment was down 1.7% to 185.6 million 2.25-gallon cases. The Malt Liquor and Ice segments were also down, roughly 4% verses 2015.
About the 2017 Beer Handbook
The Beverage Information Group’s 2017 Beer Handbook is the most comprehensive source of information on U.S. beer industry sales trends. It includes consumption and projection information by category and by market, tracks leading brands and reports historical data.