The economic situation remains challenging. However, even in difficult times beer remains a solid favorite at the bar, with domestic consumption often viewed as a way of supporting the home team and interest in imports and craft steadily growing. Total imported beer saw an increase of 0.9 percent in 2010 compared to 2009, according to the Beverage Information Group, Cheers’ parent company. That small growth spurt was offset by a 2.3 percent decrease in total domestic beer sales in the same period.
Many of the Growth Brands still showed resilient increases and held their own over the past year. The lineup is similar to last year’s. Eight brands failed to qualify for awards that were part of the lineup last year. That is two less than fell off the roster last year. Not all of them showed the same volume of growth as in years past, but many brands have had an extremely good year.
A Very Interesting Ad Campaign: Fast Track
Dos Equis is the lone member of the Fast Track this year, which is the most demanding of the Growth Brand categories. Among imported beers, the brand must have exceeded 1.5 million 2.25-gallon cases, growing at double-digit percentages, for four consecutive years. Dos Equis once again showed solid growth with a 19.1 percent increase to 14 million cases. The Heineken USA brand may still be riding high from its “Most Interesting Man in the World” ad campaign that debuted several years go and still continues.
Solid Strength: Established Growth Brands
The bulk of this year’s brands are in the Established Growth Brands category, with sales that exceed three million cases and have shown continuous and steady growth over the last four years. Seventeen out of the total 29 beer Growth Brands fall into this category.
The top trio stayed poised for success. MillerCoors’ Coors Light grew one percent to 251.3 million 2.25-gallon cases, while the company’s other major brand Keystone Light showed an impressive 2.3 percent increase over 2009 to 65.5 million. For its part, Anheuser-Busch’s Michelob Ultra showed a modest 0.2 percent increase to 43.6 million cases.
Other brands in the MillerCoors portfolio that counted themselves among the Established Growth Brands include Coors Banquet, Blue Moon, Keystone Ice and Mickey’s.
AB-InBev’s additional heavy hitters include Natural Ice, Bud Ice and Stella Artois.
Keystone Ice and Natural Ice both made a strong showing as sub-premium brands, with 3.9 percent and 0.5 percent increases respectively. These are brands that have continued their low-key approach to advertising, yet have appealed to consumers in difficult economic times.
Brands that channel nostalgia and have a retro vibe also performed well this past year. Pabst Blue Ribbon grew an impressive 16.9 percent, to increase to 30.4 million cases, continuing its strong market ride. Pennsylvania favorite Yuengling Traditional Lager climbed to 29.7 million cases, an 8.0 percent increase, showing that regional distribution is not a limitation. Texas stronghold Shiner Bock grew to five million cases with a 4.7 percent growth rate, demonstrating that strong home ties don’t need to restrain a brand’s growth.
Mexico made its brewing presence shown with Modelo Especial. This brand showed impressive growth of 15.5 percent to 30.9 million cases.
New Belgium’s hip Fat Tire Amber Ale gained 15 percent in 2010, jumping to 6.4 million cases. Imports also had a decent showing, including Labatt Blue Light with an increase of 1.5 percent to 6.7 million cases. Trendy and refreshing brews like Widmer Hefeweizen also made the rankings, with a 0.6 percent increase to 3.2 million cases.
Overall, the lineup of Established Growth Brands was somewhat similar to last year’s. It continues to be a solid mix of established domestic and imported brands, with some regional brews and sub-premium brands.
On the Radar: Rising Stars
The lineup of new brands attracting attention underwent a few changes to the lineup this year. Four of them: Loko, Shocktop, Victoria, Labatt Blue Lime and Red Stripe Light are new to the list. AB-InBev had the largest stable of brands with SELECT 55, Landshark, Shocktop and Bud Light Golden Wheat included in the category. Crown Imports, Diageo-Guinness USA, N.A. Breweries, Heineken USA and Phusion Projects—with Four Loko—were also suppliers with high-ranking brands.
This year’s Growth Brands Rising Star lineup may represent more of an eclectic beer lineup that may reflect where the market is going. SELECT 55, Four Loko and Bud Light Golden Wheat all showed impressive growth at or more than 100 percent. Four Loko grew the most in terms of percentage of sales increases, with 140 percent increase, to six million cases.
Good to See You Again: Comeback Brand
There is only one Comeback Brand that made the list this year. Samuel Adams Boston Lager regained its sales momentum after having declined slightly in 2009. In 2010, the brand increased by 7.7 percent to 14 million cases. With a national presence, Sam Adams has now become epitome of how a craft beer company can grow into a coast-to-coast phenomenon.