After slipping 1.3% in 2011, total beer consumption stabilized a bit in 2012. According to the Beverage Information Group (the research unit of Cheers’ parent company), beer consumption reached 2.8 billion 2.25-gallon cases in 2012, though that’s up less than 1% from 2011. Imported beer fared slightly better, posting a 1.5% increase.
Looking at domestic beer, the craft segment continues to crank: It was up 14.6%. Consumption of flavored malt beverages increased 7.8%.
Those were the bright spots, though: Light beer was essentially flat, while popular and ice beers were each down 1.2% from 2011, malt liquor fell 3.0% and superpremium and premium domestic beers decreased 3.1%
Our Beer Growth Brands for 2013 reflect the popularity of craft and specialty brews. Cider is another huge growth category; we’ve including ciders with the beer brands this year.
As with last year, there were no Comeback Brands—those that have rebounded in sales to at least the previous level after a recent decline—to report for 2012. Brands seem to be faring better with launching new products or line extensions.
RISING STAR GROWTH BRANDS
The Rising Stars for 2013 reflect a few key trends in the spirits industry: craft, local and flavors. Anheuser-Busch InBev brands occupy the two top spots: Bud Light Platinum and Bud Light Lime-a-Rita. Rising Star brands must be under five full years of age and have exhibited substantial growth during the past few years; both of these Bud Light offerings were launched in 2012.
Bud Light Platinum is a 6% alcohol-by-volume lager that comes in a distinctive blue bottle. AB-InBev, which earlier this year hired singer/actor Justin Timberlake as the creative director for Platimum, this past June introduced reclosable aluminum bottles for the brand.
Bud Light Lime-a-Rita is a margarita-flavored malt beverage with an 8% ABV. The company also released Bud Light Straw-Ber-Rita last year.
Sierra Nevada Torpedo, an American IPA from Chico, CA-based Sierra Nevada Brewing, increased a healthy 25.2%, selling just under 3 million 2.25-gallon cases. But the craft beer brand’s growth has slowed down from more than 100% the previous year.
Boston Beer Co.’s Angry Orchard cider, which launched in September 2011 in New England, and went nationwide in mid-2012, is making a big splash on the cider scene. It’s the brand that grew the most dramatically, from 40,000 2.25-gallon cases sold in 2011 to 2.2 million in 2012.
And Crispin Cider increased more than 100%, from 344,000 cases sold in 2011 to 710,000 in 2012. Launched in mid-2011, Minneapolis-based Crispin Cider Co. was acquired by MillerCoors in early 2012. The cider comes in original, brut and light styles.
A-B InBev has a Rising Star cider brand as well: Its Michelob Ultra Light Cider sold 350,000 cases in 2012. The company added the cider to its portfolio in May 2012.
As it did last year, Fort Collins, CO-based New Belgium Brewing had the most Rising Star brands on the list: Ranger IPA, which increased 23.3% in 2012; winter ale Snow Day; Dig Pale Ale; and Shift Pale Lager. Dig is a spring seasonal offering launched in January 2012, while Shift, unveiled in March 2012, is described as an end-of-work-shift American pale ale meets American lager that the company says is “easy to drink, crisp and congratulatory.”
New to the Rising Stars list is Chainbreaker from Bend, OR-based Deschutes Brewery. The White IPA, which is brewed with wheat and pilsner malt, launched in 2012. Deschutes sold 218,000 cases of the brand last year.
Another newcomer is Leinenkugel’s Snowdrift from Jacob Leinenkugel Brewing Co., a Chippewa Falls, WI-based brewer that’s been owned by MillerCoors since 1988. The seasonal vanilla porter was introduced in November 2012; 413,000 cases of it were sold.
FAST TRACK GROWTH BRANDS
Dos Equis retains its position at the top of the Fast Tack beer brands: It recorded annual compound growth of 17.5%. The Mexican lager beer, which has been owned by Heineken USA since 2010, reached 18.7 million cases last year, which is up from 16.1 million in 2011 and 14.0 million in 2009. The brand’s “Most Interesting Man in the World” ad campaign, which highlights one worldly fellow’s experiences, continues boost its appeal and attract a following.
To be considered a Fast Track, domestic brands must have exceeded 9 million 2.25-gallon cases in 2012, and imported brands/microbrews must have exceeded 1.5 million with double-digit growth over the past four years. Shock Top from Anheuser-Busch InBev, moved from the Rising Star list to the Fast Track brands this year. The Belgian-style wheat ale grew a heady 56.6%, from 5.9 million 2.25-gallon cases sold in 2011 to 9.2 million cases in 2012.
But Leinenkugel’s Summer Shandy posted the most significant growth rate—89.1% from 2011—of all the Fast Track brands. The seasonal offering, a wheat beer mixed with lemonade, was released in 2007.
Lagunitas IPA from Lagunitas Brewing Co. in Petaluma, CA, is a new Fast Track entrant. It increased 47.4% in 2012. Founded in 1993 (in Lagunitas, CA), Lagunitas is building a 250,000-barrel-a-year facility in Chicago to extend its reach to the Eastern U.S. According to Crain’s Chicago Business, the new operation is scheduled to start up by year-end, and will make Lagunitas the city’s largest brewer, surpassing Goose Island (which was acquired by AB InBev in 2011).
ESTABLISHED GROWTH BRANDS
The leading Established Growth Brand, Coors Light, increased its growth rate from 1.0% for the prior two years to 2.0% in 2012. The venerable brand from MillerCoors sold nearly 259 million cases; Established Growth Brands must have exceeded 3 million 2.25-gallon cases for the year.
Another light offering, Yuengling Light Lager, posted the most impressive growth rate of the Established Brands. The lager from D.G. Yuengling & Sons, established in 1829, grew 78.0% over 2011. The Pottsville, PA-based brewer’s efforts to expand beyond the Northeast appear to be paying off: Yuengling Traditional Lager grew 14.8%, reaching 39.7 million cases in 2012: It was the fourth fastest-growing brand this year.
Michelob Ultra rebounded nicely after increasing just .05% from 2010 to 2011; the brand was up 7.0% in 2012, reaching 46.9 million cases. And Modelo Especial, which had posted a 14.0% increase in cases of beer sold for 2011, improved its growth rate to 20.6% in 2012. The Mexican pilsner sold 42.4 million cases in 2012 vs. 35.2 million in 2011.
Stella Artois, the Belgian brew distributed by Anheuser-Busch InBev, continued growing at a healthy pace of 18.0% over 2011, though it had been growing by about 20% for the previous two years. Stella reached 17.1 million cases in 2012, vs. 14.5 million cases in 2011.
Boston Beer Co.’s Twisted Tea, a hard iced-tea beverage introduced in 2001, grew an impressive 31.1% over 2011, reaching 3.8 million cases. The brand recently launched its 10th flavor, mango.
Meanwhile, Landshark Lager’s growth has slowed from 7.1% for 2011 to 3.2% for 2012. The Anheuser-Busch InBev brand’s compound annual growth rate from 2008 to 2012 was 17.9%.
Blue Moon, a crafty brand from MillerCoors, grew 13.5% in 2012, reaching 24.6 million cases. But the Belgian-style white ale had previously been growing at a faster rate, at 20.6% in 2011 and 30.4% in 2010. ·
Craft Brewers Keen on NC
As local craft beer brands grow, they look to expand their operations to reduce distribution costs. And several of the larger craft brew producers based in the Western U.S. are staking East Coast claims in North Carolina.
Fort Collins, CO-based New Belgium Brewing, best known for its Fat-Tire Amber Ale, plans to open an East Coast operation in Asheville, NC, in two to three years. Chico, CA-based Sierra Nevada Brewing early next year will unveil a new location in Mills River, NC (12 miles south of Asheville). And Longmont, CO-based Oskar Blues, which produces Dale’s Pale Ale, opened a brewery in Brevard, NC, (just Southwest of Asheville) this past December.
Why the Asheville area? The beer-friendly, progressive town in Western North Carolina is already home to a number of microbreweries. Sierra Nevada, for one, cited practical factors such as ease of shipping and water quality, as well as quality of life issues, such as a low crime rate and a similar laid-back recreation and craft beer culture to its Chico community.
For Oskar Blues, the company says on its website that Brevard “seemed an obvious fit for us—small town feel, similar to the town of Lyons, CO, where we first opened up, close to Pisgah National Forest, filled with the mountain biking-spirit we found here in the Rockies, and a down-home vibe perfect for top-notch music and soul-savin’ food.”
New Belgium says it was looking for an East Coast location based near other amenities, to increase density and walkability. What’s more, its downtown Asheville brewery is being constructed on a brownfield site—a previously developed area in need of environmental clean up—in the city’s historic River Arts District. So New Belgium has been working with the North Carolina Department of Environment and Natural Resources on revitalizing the space.—MD