Higher alcohol content, craft beers brew sales

Brewers finally have something to celebrate. After three years of flat performance, the category is up 5.3% due to a flurry of new introductions. In an attempt to keep the momentum going, Anheuser-Busch InBev introduced several new products just in time for the Super Bowl.

The newest launch is Budweiser Black Crown, a beer the brewer claims has more body, color and hop character than the flagship lager, as well as a slightly higher alcohol content, at 6% alcohol by volume.

Industry experts say A-B is betting large on the launch and hoping it does proportionately for Bud what Bud Light Platinum did for the Bud Light brand.

In early January A-B InBev also introduced Beck's Sapphire, a golden pilsner brewed with German Saphir hops. Sapphire, aimed at a high-end market and packaged in sleek black glass bottles, also features a 6% ABV. A-B InBev supported both launches with Super Bowl spots.

Increased alcohol content is a key trend. "Over the past two years, large brewers have launched new brands or brand extensions with higher ABV. The products span across high-end craft beers and above premium domestic beers, to the lower-priced economy beer segments. Our initial studies indicate that this could be working. The high ABV brands launched in 2012 sourced more volume from spirits than we would have expected," said Andrea Riberi, VP and group client director of beverage alcohol at Nielsen.

Craft beers are still seeing explosive growth and showing no signs of fatigue. "Crafts are the only segment to see double-digit growth for the past three years," Riberi said. She said hoppy and seasonal beers contributed significantly to segment growth, as did variety packs.

"Continued, aggressive expansion of distribution for major players outside of their core markets will continue to boost craft growth in 2013, as will the consistent flow of new entrants," she said.

Growth of imports has been spottier than craft beers. Stella Artois, Modelo Especial and Corona have been strong. Beer segments that typically have a strong Hispanic following have seen significant growth in recent years, according to Riberi.

Ciders are an emerging segment to watch. "In 2012, we saw 24 new brands enter the cider segment, two of which were in the top 20 brands by the end of 2012," Riberi said. That growth rate is showing no signs of slipping. "Existing brands will continue to offer new flavors and packages, and several other new brands will hit the United States this spring and fall."


The article above is part of the DSN Category Review Series. For the complete Beer and Wine Buy-In Report, including extensive charts, data and more analysis, click here.

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