Walgreens, Supervalu brew biz with beer

Supervalu’s Buck Range Light beer

CHICAGO — The real question behind the introductions of a store-brand beer from both Walgreens and Supervalu is whether or not the new brews will be hits by year’s end. In other words, can Big Flats 1901 and Buck Range Light be to beer what Trader Joe’s Two-Buck-Chuck was to wine?

To date, there really hasn’t been a strong private-label, mass-market beer. There’s Trader Joe’s Hofbrau Bock and Costco’s Kirkland Signature handcrafted ales, but both of these retailers proffer craft beers — premium beers that cater to a niche market. 7-Eleven introduced the value-priced Game Day in April 2010, but according to published reports, that store brand has performed poorly. 

U.S. private-label penetration into the branded beer business is slim — store-brand beer grabbed only a 0.9% market share across food, drug and mass for the 52 weeks ended Dec. 25, 2010, according to Nielsen Co. data.

Of course, how you interpret that data all depends on your perspective — whether you’re a beer-half-full or a beer-half-empty kind of person. While some may see an impenetrable wall of branded 12-packs stacked to the ceiling, others see opportunity.

After all, that 0.9% private-label market share represents a 100% improvement over the prior year, when store-brand market share was tabulated at less than 0.1%.

And private-label beers in Europe enjoy a much greater share of the market — as high as 36.5% in Italy and 34.5% in Spain, according to the Private Label Manufacturers Association. Private-label beers even enjoy as much as 21.2% market share in the United Kingdom. “It gives you some idea what the potential may be if retailers make a commitment to promoting their own brands in the category,” suggested Dane Twining, PLMA spokesman.

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