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Craft Brew News

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Craft Brew News is your best source for the latest craft beer-related news, numbers and analysis. This lively, easy-to-read e-newsletter keeps subscribers up to date with the latest breaking stories alongside exclusive insight and perspective that only BMI can provide. Subscribe today to get the accurate, reliable and relevant info you need to compete effectively in this dynamic craft beer segment.

Craft Brew News

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Beer marketers have to step up their game, speakers repeated throughout the day at our Beer Insights Seminar on Monday. Somehow the consensus put a finer point to persistent, yet fuzzier concerns about “category health” and the beer industry’s difficulty growing overall volume. Lotsa questions raised during this week’s proceedings, but here’s another: how can, how will craft participate in fixing beer’s marketing problem? Craft’s biggest player shares same problem with the biggest players in US beer: its flagship beers are losing volume. And comments about improved marketing at the Seminar culminated in those from Boston Beer chairman Jim Koch (see yesterday’s issue). Jim, AB prexy Michel Doukeris and MC’s Pete Marino all shared hope that better mktg would help struggling Sam Adams, Bud and Miller/Coors brand families, respectively. In general, marketers “haven’t made beer as special as it could or should be,” Pete acknowledged. So the beer biz needs to “bring a little bit of magic back to beer.” What magic does craft have left up its sleeves? Individual companies and brands aren’t alone in these considerations. Meetings continue among trade assn leaders and many industry members, hoping to address overarching category concerns. But don’t hold your breath waiting…

Publishing Info

  • Year 2018
  • Volume 9
  • Issue # 101
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…

Publishing Info

  • Year 2018
  • Volume 9
  • Issue # 99
The number of breweries in Oregon has quadrupled in the last 15 yrs, but despite tougher competition and slowing overall sales, closures haven’t yet spiked in the state, according to recent post from OR’s Office of Economic Analysis. The brewery closure rate in the state has “barely budged” and hovered in the 2-4% range since 2008. Last yr, 6 breweries in OR closed, putting rate at just below 3%. At same time, the “All Firm Closure Rate” was more than double that, at just over 7%, the OR OEA estimates, which is down from about 10% in 2009, the peak of the Great Recession, but on par with last 6 yrs or so. “Slower growth can strain business finances, eventually leading to more closures or failures,” economist Josh Lehner wrote in post. But that hasn’t happened in OR. Yet? After massive uptick in the number of breweries, “we should see more closures given there are so many more potential places to run into issues – be they low sales, high costs, personal problems, or the like.” That may still be to come. But even with volume declines, “that does not mean the industry overall is unhealthy,” Josh argues. Say what?!?…

Publishing Info

  • Year 2018
  • Volume 9
  • Issue # 95
Craft beer sales keep on slippin’ in Nielsen scan data, as volume declined 1.5% and $$ down 0.5% for latest 4 wks thru Oct 6 in Nielsen All Outlet data. In fact, craft volume declined in every 4-wk period for the last month and a half in Nielsen, dragging segment volume flat and $$ up just over 1% YTD. Declines are happening across channels too, as craft volume dipped in underdeveloped c-stores (-0.8%) and in grocery (-1.6%) for latest 4 wks thru Oct 6. Yet craft still gained share in c-stores. In grocery, craft lost 0.3 share of volume and 0.6 share of $$ for period. Indeed, scan data paints an increasingly tuff picture for Nielsen-defined craft beer sales at retail. Gotta note, Blue Moon, Leinenkugel and Shock Top steep double-digit declines are only getting steeper. Removing those brands, which collectively saw volume drop 14% for 4 wks and 9% YTD thru Oct, craft segment improves a little over 2 pts to volume +0.8%, $$ +1.6% for 4-wk period. Meanwhile, Sierra Nevada has kept up improved growth trend since mid-to-late Sep; volume up 4% and $$ up 5% for 4 wks. And both Sam Adams (volume down 6%) and New…

Publishing Info

  • Year 2018
  • Volume 9
  • Issue # 93
After big ramp up to 92K bbls last yr, 1st full yr under CANarchy wing, expansion into new markets and continued strong growth of flagship Jai Alai IPA in scans, Cigar City was a sure bet for crossing 100K-bbl milestone in 2018. But it already blew by it thru Q3, likely to leap-frog numerous other craft brewers as it expects to finish this yr at about 143K bbls, +55%, co shared last wk. That would put Cigar City volume somewhere between where Great Lakes (141K bbls) finished 2017 and where each of Alaskan and Victory (147K bbls) ended up. Would also put it less than 40K bbls behind CANarchy compatriot Oskar Blues, which dropped 10% to 180K bbls in 2017, recall. Cigar City also significantly expanded distribution, almost quadrupling the states it’s available in from 6 in 2016 to 23 by 3rd qtr of this yr, by which point co already shipped 107K bbls. That growth heavily driven by Jai Alai, $$ +67% yr-to-date thru Sep 9 in IRI multi-outlet + convenience and keeping up that pace last 4 wks. It’s actually now #2 craft canned 6-pk in IRI data, co shared, with almost 90% of its sales in that…

Publishing Info

  • Year 2018
  • Volume 9
  • Issue # 90
This latest layoff, even more so than all the others, is a symbol of craft’s current, more difficult moment. Yes, even Lagunitas, the most hi-flying and fastest growing craft-brewer during 2010-2015 go-go yrs, is not immune to the intense competition and fragmentation in craft. Lagunitas sales have basically flattened out in US. That’s still better than a lot of its large craft brethren. But unfortunately, it staffed up expecting continued rapid growth, which is not materializing in new environment. Layoffs are 12% of workforce across all departments, CEO Maria Stipp told Craft Brew News, tho “primarily non-commercial,” she added. She declined to specify total number, but CBN understands it’s between 75-100 folks (~900 employees as of Sep 2017). With craft “rapidly evolving” and becoming “even more challenging,” including “freight pressures,” Lagunitas made this “difficult but necessary decision,” according to Maria. It’s “not taken lightly” and Lagunitas made “every effort to do it in the right way.” Maria (like founder Tony Magee) sees a lot of comparisons between what’s happening now and what happened in the late 1990s, when craft stalled for about 7 yrs, but Lagunitas “weathered the storm. We know how to weather the storm,” she said. Lagunitas still…

Publishing Info

  • Year 2018
  • Volume 9
  • Issue # 89
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