The prognosis is strong for imported beer, both in the calendar year to date and as compared to the last 52 weeks, with overall similar growth numbers across the board.
Imports are nearing $3 billion in sales year to date and over $6.3 billion in the last year, largely carried by European and South American beer, which comprise more than two-thirds of total sales. For the calendar year, this is an 8.4 percent increase over last year’s numbers, or an increase of more than $217 million in sales.
Mexican beer comprises the bulk of these sales, at nearly two-thirds of total market share, and has also seen tremendous growth, up 12.3 percent from last year’s first two quarters. Much of this success can be attributed to the ease of import and demographic and cultural ties between the two neighboring countries, along with the nature of lager-dominant Mexican beer, which marries with the American palate.
From a percentages standpoint, the only category which has outstripped Mexican beer in growth is Belgian beer, which is up 12.7 percent from last year in the first two quarters, with sales approaching $200 million calendar year to date, and similarly, around $406 million in the past year. This is a very promising sign for the Belgians, whose focus on refined, quality ales speaks to a growing appreciation for tradition and subtlety in American, the land of the big and bold. Also telling is that the numbers remain consistent throughout the year, meaning the Belgian category is not reliant on seasonal offerings whose sales will tail off in the hotter or colder months. Dark and strong or light and crisp, the numbers show there’s an increasingly comfortable place for Belgian beer in America.
European beer, considered a separate category from Belgian beer, and comprising a quarter share of the market, has seen solid growth in the first half of the year, up around two percent for around $715 million in sales over the last sixth months.
Holland, another separate category, has seen about a one percent uptick in the first half year, for a total of around 13 percent dollar share.
Asia, Canada, Germany, and the U.K. have all seen significant declines in sales and dollar share (an average of 10 percent). This can be attributed to the increased dominance of Belgian and Mexican beer especially, which competes strongly as both an import and a lager, a category which most countries rely on for the bulk of their sales. Compound this with the abundant and vibrant American beer scene, both craft and macro, and you’re presented with an extremely competitive market. Belgium, Holland and the rest of Europe are leading the way by capitalizing on tradition while remaining modern, both in look and style and overall awareness.
It is worth noting that these numbers do not reflect differences, perceived or otherwise, in craft and macro beer. Were these segments broken down, you’d see more dollar share for countries like Belgium, Germany and the U.K., and less for Mexico, which rides on the heels of Corona, Modelo and Dos Equis.
For more on the numbers and their sources, see below:
IRI Worldwide is a market research firm which tracks category-wide sales trends of beer sold in numerous retail outlets and then produces a monthly report of its findings. These findings can be used to provide real-time insight into the ever-changing beer marketplace, both craft and macro. Here, we examined the most important changes in the world of imported beer over the second quarter of 2017. These findings can help you make more informed choices as a consumer, and can help commercial brewers adapt to the marketplace. Sometimes, it’s just fun to see what’s hot and what’s not.
Here are a few things to keep in mind – these numbers are on a national level, and may not represent specific states accurately. The numbers also do not represent beer sold on-premise, which would likely skew the numbers in the favor of smaller brewers, who are far more likely to see profits from onsite sales. They track sales of packaged beer only, from a few different sources, including convenience stores (think gas stations), a general “food” category (grocery stores, etc.), and a combined multi-outlet and convenience (MULC) store category (a combination of grocery, drug, Wal-Marts/Sam’s Clubs, dollar stores and military stores, among others). We focused on the MULC category. While not all-encompassing, it’s a great, well-rounded resource.