Growth Brands 2014: Beer Here!


Beer is the adult beverage of choice in the U.S., according to a recent Gallup poll. The study found that 41% of participants typically drink beer; 31% drink wine and 23% consume liquor.

Americans’ current preference for beer is among the highest Gallup has recorded since beer fell to 36% in 2005. Still, total beer consumption slipped 1.6% in 2013 to 2.8 billion 2.25-gallon cases, according to the Beverage Information Group, the research unit of Cheers’ parent company.

Light beer, which still commands a 49% share of the total beer category, was down 4.1% in 2013, while malt liquor fell 3.2% from 2012. Consumption of popular beers dropped 2.7%, and superpremium and premium domestic beers decreased 2.2%.

So where is the growth? Primarily in craft brews, ciders, and specialty beverages. Craft beer consumption, for instance, increased 14%, about the same percentage as the previous year.

Ciders, which are included in our Beer Growth Brands, posted tremendous growth overall. The cider category’s consumption was up a whopping 66%, reaching 16.8 million 2.25-gallon cases in 2013.

Thanks largely to the Bud Light Lime-a-Rita phenomenon, flavored malt beverage consumption was up 2.7%, though that’s not quite as robust as the category’s 7.8% increase for the previous year. In fact, three out of the 19 Rising Star Growth Brands are Bud Light Ritas, four are ciders and the bulk are craft beer releases.

With all the new flavors and styles of beers, the category is now driven by product releases. This could in part explain the lack of Comeback Brands—those that have rebounded in sales to at least the previous level after a recent decline. As with the previous two years, there were no Comeback Brands to report for 2014.



Rising Star Growth Brands

The Rising Star Growth Brands are, well, on the rise: There are 19 Rising Stars for 2014 vs. 12 for 2013 and seven for 2012. Rising Star brands must be under five full years of age and have exhibited substantial growth during the past few years.

Interestingly, the top Rising Star brand from last year, Anheuser-Busch InBev’s Bud Light Platinum, did not make the list in 2014. The lager had launched with a splash in 2012 and sold 27.5 million 2.25-gallon cases in 2013.

Budweiser brands still top the list, however. The top-two Rising Stars are Bud Light Lime-a-Ritas, while number three is Budweiser Black Crown.

Introduced in February 2013, Black Crown was the result A-B-InBev’s Project 12 initiative, in which the company’s brewers came up with a dozen different beers in the style of Bud. The 12 brews were then whittled down to six; Budweiser Black Crown was the winner based on customer taste tests and opinions.


Cider houses rule

Cider remains a small fraction of the beer market, but the category’s growth in recent years is remarkable. U.S. consumers have clearly developed a taste for the fermented apple beverage.

The leading cider brand, Boston Beer Co.’s Angry Orchard, posted a staggering increase of 242%—from 2.2 million cases in 2012 to 7.5 million cases in 2013. The brand launched in late 2011 in New England and went nationwide in mid-2012.

Angry Orchard comes in the core Crisp Apple, Traditional Dry, Apple Ginger and Green Apple flavors, as well as the seasonal Elderflower (available from April through August) and Cinnful (August through March) cinnamon spice flavors.

The brand also includes the Cider House Collection flavors: Ice Man, Straw Man and The Muse.

While Angry Orchard is the clear cider leader among the Rising Stars, the bigger beer brands are getting in on the cider craze—and they’re catching up quickly. Crispin Cider, which was acquired by MillerCoors in 2012, increased 71% to 1.2 million cases sold in 2013. Crispin offers seven different apple ciders and three pear ciders. MillerCoors has also recently released the higher-in-alcohol Smith & Forge Hard Cider.

And A-B InBev’s Michelob Ultra Light Cider, which came out in May 2012, was up 63%, to 570,000 cases. The company also introduced Stella Artois Cidre (pronounced see-druh) to the U.S. market in May 2013. The European-style cider from the Belgian beer brand sold 300,000 cases in 2013.

A-B InBev is further betting on the cider category with Johnny Appleseed, a hard apple cider it rolled out in April. It’s the first new brand introduction by the company since the Shock Top craft brew in 2006.

Redd’s Apple Ale from MillerCoors is not a cider, but rather a golden ale with red apple hints. It’s growing like a cider, though: Launched in late 2012, Redd’s Apple Ale reached more than 7 million cases in 2013.


Getting crafty

As it did the previous two years, Fort Collins, CO-based New Belgium Brewing had the most Rising Star brands on the list. Ranger IPA increased 12% in 2013, to 1.3 million cases, while New Belgium’s winter seasonal beer Accumulation had a strong debut with 400,000 cases.

The brewer sold some 330,000 cases each of its Rampant Imperial/Double IPA beer and summer fruit ale Rolle Bolle in 2013, while its Shift pale lager increased 19.4% over the previous year to 271,000 cases in 2013. Pumpkick, New Belgium’s new, traditionally spiced seasonal fall ale, reached 230,000 cases in 2013.

Chainbreaker, a White IPA from Bend, OR-based Deschutes Brewery, is back on the Rising Stars list: The brand increased 57% to 342,000 barrels. It’s joined by the company’s River Ale, a year-round session beer Deschutes launched in 2013.

New to the Rising Stars list is Founders All Day IPA, an American IPA style beer from Founders Brewing Company in Grand Rapids, MI. The first Founders brew to be canned, All Day IPA came out in early 2012.


Fast Track Growth Brands

Dos Equis continues its domination at the top of the Fast Tack beer brands: It recorded annual compound growth of 18.5% from 2009 to 2013. The Mexican lager reached 23.2 million cases last year, up from 18.7 million in 2012 and 16.1 million in 2011. 

The brand, which has been owned by Heineken USA since 2010, this past spring launched Dos Equis Dos-A-Rita, a ready-to-serve lager Margarita modeled after the popular cocktail recipe.

To be considered a Fast Track, domestic brands must have exceeded 9 million 2.25-gallon cases in 2013, and imported brands/microbrews must have exceeded 1.5 million with double-digit growth over the past four years.

Sierra Nevada Torpedo, an American IPA from Chico, CA-based Sierra Nevada Brewing, moved over from the Rising Stars to the Fast Track Brands list this year. It reached 5.4 million cases sold in 2013, up 25.1% from the previous year.

Once again, Leinenkugel’s Summer Shandy posted the most significant annual compound growth rate from 2009 to 2013—nearly 60%—of all the Fast Track brands. The seasonal wheat beer mixed with lemonade, which came out in 2007, was up 25% in 2013, to 5.4 million cases.

But Lagunitas IPA from Lagunitas Brewing Co. in Petaluma, CA, posted the most impressive growth from 2012 to 2013: 55.9%, reaching 1.8 million cases. The IPA was the company’s first seasonal and was launched in 1995.


Established Growth Brands

A-B InBev’s Michelob Ultra—which was up 7.1% in 2013, reaching 50.2 million cases—took the top spot from Coors Light, which did not make the list this year. But MillerCoors brand Coors Banquet improved its growth rate from 1.5% the previous year to 6.5% and 21 million cases sold.

The company’s craft brand Blue Moon grew 4.9% in 2013 to 26.9 million cases; it had grown at 13.5% the previous year.

Mexican pilsner Modelo Especial from Crown Imports posted an 18.0% increase to 50.1 million cases of beer sold in 2013. The company had boosted its advertising expenditures for the brand 27% from 2012 to 2013.

Consumption of another Crown brand, Pacifico—a Mexican pilsner-style beer—was up 4.5% in 2013, to 6.2 million cases.

Shock Top from Anheuser-Busch InBev moved over from the Fast Track to the Established Growth Brands in 2014. But the Belgian-style wheat ale grew less than 1% in 2013 to 9.3 million cases. That’s a big slowdown from the previous year when it had increased 56.6%.

The most impressive growth rate among the established brands belongs to Heineken USA’s Tecate Light, which increased 24.3% in 2013, to 3 million cases. And Stella Artois, distributed by Anheuser-Busch InBev, was up 22.9% over 2012, reaching 21.0 million cases in 2013.


Slowing Their roll

Natural Ice is back on the Established Growth Brands again. Though it grew less than 1%, the brand reached 43.4 million cases. The venerable Pabst Blue Ribbon’s growth rate slowed a bit from 10.4% in 2012 to 8.2% this past year, but it reached the 40 million-case mark.

Indeed, many of the established brands saw their growth rates slow in 2013. For instance, Yuengling Light Lager, from D.G. Yuengling & Sons, grew 24.3% in 2013 over 2012, vs. 78.0% the previous year. The Pottsville, PA-based brewer sold 6.2 million cases of Yuengling Light Lager last year.

Shiner Bock, a dark lager, increased 8.2% over 2012 to 6.5 million cases. Owned by Gambrinus, Shiner beers are made in the Spoetzl Brewery in Shiner, TX; the company aims to distribute Shiner Bock in all 50 states by the end of 2014.

As it was last year, Boston Beer Co.’s Twisted Tea is the only Established Growth Brand that’s not a traditional beer. Introduced in 2001, the hard iced-tea beverage comes in seven flavors, including a seasonal tropical, as well as three flavors of Twisted Lemonades. The brand increased a healthy 15.5% in 2013 to 7.6 million cases. 



Rita madness

How popular is Bud Light Lime-a-Rita? The Margarita-flavored malt beverage, which was introduced in 2012 and has 8% ABV, was up 40% in 2013, reaching 10.2 million 2.25-gallon cases.

But the original Lime-a Rita has already been eclipsed by Bud Light Straw-Ber-Rita flavor, which was unveiled in late March 2013 and already sold 11.3 million 2.25-gallon cases in less than a year.

Then there’s Bud Light Lime Cran-Brrr-Rita, which was introduced as a limited-time seasonal offering in 2013. The company sold 500,000 2.25-gallon cases of Cran-Brrr-Rita last year. A-B-InBev introduced two new permanent flavors to the Bud Light Lime franchise in spring 2014: Mang-O-Rita and Raz-Ber-Rita.


NOTE: For more data on the beer industry, please see the Beverage Information & Insight Group’s Beer Handbook 2014, which is available for purchase at

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