Craft goes up against some easier comps thru the rest of 2018 in Nielsen all-outlet + c-store off-premise data. Recall, last yr the segment grew volume low-mid single digits thru the summer and early fall before spending most of the rest of 2017 flat-to-down in this data set. And that’s the good news. The bad news is that craft doesn’t have much momentum heading into that easier set of comps. Craft cases declined 1.9% for 4 wks thru Oct 20 in Nielsen scans. That’s better than for the 4 wks thru 10/13, but only by a tenth of a pt. Yr-to-date, craft volume still positive, but only by a tenth of a pt, +0.1%. Craft $$ down 1% for 4 wks, +1% YTD as avg price/case up 34 cents to $37.19.
A key 2017 shift that sets up the segment for these easier late-2018 comps is revealed by analyzing the broad-brush dynamics in 4-wk top craft brand family trends across the back-half of each year. As Sept rolled on last yr, the combo of Blue Moon, Leinenkugel Shandies and Shock Top brand families slowed and, come Oct, slipped into decline, as the below charts show. As a group, those 3 franchises grew 5% for 4 wks thru 9/9/17, fell to -5% by 4 wks thru 11/4/17 and then didn’t improve by yr-end. These brands continued to struggle in 2018, hovering closer to -10% as a group since July. And as they faced easier comps over the last month or two, they softened further, from -11.5% for 4 wks thru 9/8/18 to -14.6% thru 10/20. The Blue Moon family has the best trends, but still off high-single digits. But Shock Top’s decline steepened to -22.8% for 4 wks, now down near 13% YTD, while Leinie Shandy volume dropped by almost a third for 4 wks, -16% YTD. These 3 brands collectively lost 1.6 share of craft volume to 16.5 YTD, off fully 2 share to 13.2 last 4 wks.
(Editor’s note: the 2 charts here show volume trends for rolling 4-wk periods in the 2nd half of both 2017 and 2018, with the bars showing this yr’s trends and the dotted lines indicating the comps, or 2017 trends. These 4-wk periods do not align perfectly: 2017 periods end one calendar day later. Recall that Nielsen includes Blue Moon, Leinie Shandies and Shock Top in its craft data, while Beer Marketer’s total volume numbers exclude these brands. Data for 4 wks thru Nov 11, 2017 is unavailable.)
Interestingly, the combo of Sam Adams, Sierra Nevada and New Belgium brand families are performing similarly to how they did during this time last yr, at least in aggregate. Individually it’s a different story. Sam Adams improved recently, but is still down near 7% for 4 wks thru 10/20. Sierra Nevada maintained positive trends since mid-Sept, up 1.2% for 4 wks, almost 10 pts better than at same time last yr. New Belgium went the opposite direction, from mid-single digit growth last fall to falling 9% for 4 wks. Those 3 brands all down YTD, but Sierra by just 0.5%, Sam Adams by near 9% and New Belgium by almost 12%. As a group, they’ve lost 1.3 share of segment volume to 18.1 YTD. But due to Sam Octoberfest strength and positive recent Sierra trends, the group had 20.9 share for 4 wks, off 0.7.
The wide and wild group of all other craft brands collectively gained another 3 share of craft cases to 65.4 so far this yr in Nielsen xAOC + c-store data. They held slightly more share, but gained slightly less for 4 wks thru 10/20, when they collectively grew volume by 2.2%, not too far off this group’s trend since at least July. This group certainly has not grown at the pace it did a year ago. But it is growing. The combo of only these “All Other” brands and the 3 top indie craft brand families in Nielsen (Sam Adams, Sierra Nevada, New Belgium), provides a look much closer to our measure of craft volume, which is growing this yr, but slowly. Craft without Blue Moon, Leinie Shandies and Shock Top is up 0.4% for 4 wks. Since July, it peaked at +3% for 4 wks thru 8/4 (not coincidentally going against its easiest comp of summer 2017).