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Mid-Year Review: May Strong; Could Beer Biz Be Up in 2012? Pricing; Competitive Shifts

May another very good mo in beer biz, according to most reports, with several suppliers on a roll. Yuengling up 30%, NAB up 20%, Crown and HUSA up double digits,INSIGHTS hears. And many distribs talk of gangbuster mo. Tho Beer Inst May shipments data not yet available, all these numbers suggest beer biz added significantly in May to its 1.1-mil-bbl gain thru Apr. With easy 3d qtr comps, will be harder for industry to give all of that gain back thru rest of 2012. Volume might even be up in 2012, for first time since 2008, tho too soon to know. Some noise in numbers with extra sell days so far. Then too, while "there's some euphoria out there" thru May, one longtime observer believes the "elephant in the room" is the effect of another "across the board price hike" in 4th qtr.

Make no mistake, AB plans another widespread price increase. It has already begun talking to distribs about fall increases, sometimes discussing details. But no paper yet. Thru mid-year, pricing has again held up well, tho there are some outliers (see below). Consumer price index shows beer off-premise up 2.2% thru May. Meanwhile, AB avg prices up 2.7% in Nielsen 3-channel data thru May 19, MC up 2.4%, Crown essentially flat, HUSA prices down about 1% and Boston Beer up 2%. But Bud, Bud Light, and Miller Lite avg prices up less than 1.5% (Coors Light up about 2%). So big brewers having tuff time pricing up their biggest brands. Meanwhile, many don't expect widespread price increases from Crown, HUSA or Yuengling this fall, which could fuel further growth for them.

Big competitive shift so far in 2012 is that AB has outperformed MC on back of Bud Light Platinum. Several large AB distribs tell INSIGHTS they are up 3% or so on AB brands yr-to-date. In 2011, MC STRs down 2.3% while AB down 3%. In Q1, AB +1%, while MC -2%. Interestingly, MC trends have improved compared to last yr (it's down less), but its relative performance less good so far. Big importers are back in a big way so far in 2012. Yuengling is flying. And looks like craft continues to grow at double-digit rate. Tho many leading craft players appear to expect shakeout, no evidence of it so far.

Publishing Info

  • Year: 2012
  • Volume: 43
  • Issue #: 12
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By Beer Marketer’s Insights
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