Beer Trends and growth segments in USA, Technomic reports

Posted by AFN Staff Writers on 8th October 2012

Beer remained the largest segment of the U.S. adult beverage industry, accounting for more than four-fifths of total alcohol volume, but was challenged by both economic and consumer trends that resulted in a 1.3 percent decline in 2011. Total beer volume in the USA was 2.8 billion 2.25-gallon cases for the year, according to Technomic’s recently-released 2012 Beer (Trends in Adult Beverage) report.

“The beer consumer is really at the heart of the trends shaping the beer market,” said Donna Hood Crecca, senior director of the Adult Beverage Resource Group at Technomic.

“The core consumers for the major domestic brands were among those most impacted by the recession, so their spending habits changed. At the same time, taste preferences evolved, especially among younger consumers, and we saw beer drinkers increasingly seeking different styles and more complex or varied flavor profiles. Both trends affected the powerhouse categories and brands, which resulted in the overall decline,” Crecca said.

Areas of contraction

Domestic light beer, for example, accounted for more than half of total beer volume, so its 2.6 percent volume decline contributed to the industry’s contraction. Regular domestic beer generated one-fifth of total volume; it declined 3.2 percent. These categories are populated by large-volume but mature brands.  Ice beer and malt liquor categories also contracted.

Areas of Growth

Gains were made in several evolving categories:

  • Imported beers market segment expanded in 2011 to reach 385 million cases, outperforming domestic beer. Mexican beers dominated and grew, finding favor with both mainstream and Hispanic consumers.
  • Craft beer grew 11.2 percent in volume to account for 5.5 percent of total beer volume; the category benefitted from consumer interest in artisan and local products featuring unique styles and flavor profiles. Several craft brewers expanded production or distribution, while newcomers continued to enter the market. The number of craft brewers and microbreweries increased by nearly 200 facilities.
  • Cider emerged as a bright spot. The smallest category within the beer industry tapped into many of the same consumer trends driving craft beer and posted the largest gain, 31.3 percent.
  • Super-premium domestic beer realized an 11.8 percent increase, sparked by product innovation and portfolio expansion by select labels.
  • Flavored malt beverage (FMB) experienced a 3.3 percent increase resulting from seasonal flavors and new drink introductions.

“These pockets of growth indicate the consumer palate is changing, which represents new opportunities for the beer industry,” commented Crecca.

News about the major beer players

The two largest beer marketers in the USA – AB InBev and MillerCoors LLC – together generated nearly three quarters of total beer volume. Each worked to tap into the emerging segments through product innovation, brand extensions and new brand introductions aimed at portfolio diversification, often supported by strategic multi-faceted marketing campaigns.

Imported beer was led by Crown Imports LLC, which increased its share to 44.2 percent of the category on the strength of its Mexican portfolio; the company also grew its share of total beer.

Among craft brewers, D.G. Yuengling & Son jumped ahead of the Boston Beer Company to rank as the largest-volume craft brewer; its flagship label also edged out Samuel Adams Boston Lager to be the largest-volume craft brand.

Leading Suppliers’ Share of Beer Volume 2011

AB InBev


MillerCoors LLC


Crown Imports


Heineken USA


Pabst Brewing Company


Source: Technomic’s 2012 BeerTAB (Trends in Adult Beverage) Report

Technomic anticipates these trends to continue among the categories. “However, the strategic acquisitions, production innovation, new brand and line extensions occurring this year will enable some beer marketers to capitalize on emerging opportunities, thus shifting the beer industry landscape,” noted Crecca.

About Technomic

Technomic provides clients with the facts, insights and consulting support they need to enhance their business strategies, decisions and results. Its services include numerous publications and digital products, as well as proprietary studies and ongoing research on all aspects of the food industry.

To purchase the full report, see: 2012 BeerTAB (Trends in Adult Beverage) report.