Once upon a time, as craft was the it-segment across all off-premise alc bev categories, the magical mix-a-six pack offered that pesky promiscuous craft consumer the perfect chance to sample to his little heart’s content. But as craft slowed, grocery chains scrutinized their shelves, many reducing space for the complex pack if not cutting it altogether, resulting in notable decline. While not a perfect metric for mix-a-six packs, the IRI-tracked “Assorted” beer brand/vendor/segment provides a window into this trip from seemingly essential amenity for variety-seeking beer drinkers to frequently derided graveyard of dusty bottles.
A way, way back in 2013, IRI’s “Assorted” beer, tracked alongside top-25 beer vendors, grew $$ sales 41.5% in grocery stores, hitting 0.33 share of total beer $$. Grocery store consumers spent more on assorted packs at near $10/6-pk than they did on Stone, Bell’s, Great Lakes or Dogfish Head beer, according to IRI data YTD thru 12/29/13. At that time, Assorted was the equivalent of the 5th largest craft brand, behind Sam Adams Seasonal, Sierra Pale, Fat Tire, Boston Lager and Sam Variety, bigger than Torpedo. It kept gaining thru 2014, +13% by $$ to 0.35 share of beer sold in grocery stores YTD thru 12/28/14. It topped 0.4 share for the last 4 and 13 wks of 2014 in IRI data, growing 20% during key holiday season. The following year, “Assorted” neared 0.6 share of beer $$ for 4 wks thru 12/27/15. Across all of 2015, it topped 1.2 mil case equivalents tracked by IRI and reached 0.47 share of beer $$. Grocery consumers bought more “Assorted” packs than either Boston Lager or Fat Tire in 2015 (though not as much as Not Your Father’s Root Beer, which recall was tracked with craft that yr and hit #3 craft brand by $$). At this point, Assorted prices inched even closer to $40/case, over $3 more than the average craft case price and over $8 more than the avg price per case of a variety pk.
Then things changed. In mid-2016, “Assorted” (now tracked by IRI with segments instead of vendors) was still up double-digits, but by the end of the year it started to decline. Down mid-single digits for the last 4- and 13-wk periods thru 12/25/16 in IRI grocery stores, back down at 0.33 share of $$. Stone, Bell’s, Founders and Firestone all sold more in this channel than “Assorted,” as did the top-9 IRI-tracked craft brands (which now included Blue Moon, Shock Top and Leinenkugel Shandy brands). Recall, 2016 was also the yr craft slowed, finishing the yr up 7% by $$. Variety packs passed Pale Ale as the #3 craft “style.” And rumblings about off-premise chains that sought to make big cuts to craft shelf space rippled thru industry discussions.
In 2017, the “Assorted” segment looked like a bloodbath in IRI grocery store data. Down 54% by $$ for the full yr and off a crazy 80+% for the last 4 wks of the yr at the same time that avg prices climbed over $10/6-pk. Oddly, the most current stats don’t quite square with such a dramatic decline (likely due to tracking tweaks at IRI). But “Assorted” has fallen back to 0.3 share of total beer $$ YTD thru 11/4 of this yr and still down mid-single digits. It’s down by over 9% for 4 wks, losing 0.04 share to 0.31. Yet it’s still on par with Dogfish Head, the #21 beer vendor by $$ in IRI grocery stores YTD. “Assorted” sales are in line with Shiner Bock, the #10 craft brand and #45 beer brand by $$ in grocery stores. So it’s still a key piece of the puzzle and some stores stickin’ with the mix-a-six program. The onslaught of innovation, including well outside of craft, into unique flavor combinations and riffing off various non-alc bev inspirations, surely to further impact how consumers spend on trial in the beer category.