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Boston Beer’s Striking Turnaround at A Cost; Will Tea Party Continue? Will It Pass Pabst?

Boston Beer pulled off remarkable turnaround in 2018.  Down 6% in each of 2016-2017, Boston shipments +16% thru Sep.  And it expects to be up high singles digits to low doubles again next yr. If it hits target, will almost certainly pass Pabst as #5 US beer supplier by volume in 2019.  For 9 mos 2018, Boston shipments just 217K bbls behind Pabst. Boston up 459K bbls, 16%, while Pabst down estimated 335K bbls, 8.6%. An almost 800K-bbl swing in 9 mos. But Boston’s rapid growth came at a considerable cost, founder Jim Koch emphasized at Beer Insights Seminar. Growth this yr will get it back to previous peak: 2015 volume of 4.256 mil bbls, Jim noted. But it expects to 1/3 less profit.  Boston Beer oper income hit $156 mil in 2015, likely to be around $110 mil in 2018. Boston a public co, but Jim controls voting stock, so “that gives us the ability to...invest for the future and be willing to tank earnings in a way that no public company could do,” Jim said.

Boston $$ sales hit $811 mil, +19%, in IRI multioutlet + convenience thru Nov 4. Beer just a qtr of that.  FMBs at $389 mil. Up 44.7%! That’s almost half its biz in scan, sez data provided by Bump Williams Consulting. Twisted Tea #1 FMB, still +19%.  Truly Spiked & Sparkling hard seltzers up 200%+. Meanwhile, Angry Orchard over 60 share of cider; has each of top 4 brands. A-O cider biz +14% to $209 mil. That’s neck-and-neck with its beer biz, $213.5 mil, -7%. Boston got shot-in-arm from Sam 76 and Seasonals up 6%, but Boston Lager -14%.  Boston hit “home runs” on new products this yr, ceo Dave Burwick said on Q3 conference call. “Dave is something we’ve never really had before, which is a world class marketer,” Jim said at Seminar. Both Jim and Dave paying attention to more bleeding-edge trends in bevs; we spotted ’em exploring Fancy Foods conference, featuring many new NAs. “We need to get out of our little boxes,” Jim told Seminar. Indeed, next yr’s innovation platform pushes further out on emerging trends, focuses on “health and wellness,” Dave said on call. Boston will go natl with a gose-style fitness beer called 26.2, sold in Boston for yrs, tied to Boston marathon; test a shelf-stable alcoholic kombucha called Tura and intro a lower-cal, lower-sugar, lower-ABV tea called Wild Leaf. Give Boston credit for changing with times. Still, “craft beer is always going to be the heart and soul” of Boston Beer, Jim told Seminar.  Boston Beer is “overinvesting to turn around Sam Adams.” It “may take 5-10 years,” said Jim, but co still seeks to turn Lager.

Publishing Info

  • Year: 2018
  • Volume: 49
  • Issue #: 22
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