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12% craft beer gain? Is that possible?

In still another story about gloomy beer sales that focuses on the largest brewers BusinessWeek provides this eye-opening number:

“One segment of the beer industry that has resisted the recession is craft breweries, increasingly popular for flavorful beers made in smaller batches. According to data from the Nielsen Co., craft or microbrew sales rose 12.4% in 2009.”

Nielsen also reports that craft beers now account for 5.8 percent of the overall beer market.

Granted, Nielsen and the Brewers Association define “craft beer” in different ways (the BA is more exclusive) but a gain of more than 12 percent for 2009 would be stunning. The Wall Street Journal has reported Boston Beer production was up 1.6 percent in 2009, and we know traditionally total craft sales seldom differ much from Samuel Adams (in no small part because Sam Adams accounts for more than one bottle sold out of every five). In 2008 the category was up 6 percent, Boston Beer 6 percent. In 2007, Boston Beer 14 percent and “craft” 12 percent. You get the idea.

Additionally, at mid-year the Brewers Association reported “craft” gains of 5 percent for the first six months. It would take one heck of a second half to hit 12 percent.



2 Responses to 12% craft beer gain? Is that possible?

  1. Joe Stange February 11, 2010 at 7:15 am #

    I wonder if they include the faux-craft specialty beers from the largest brewers… Blue Moon et al.

  2. Stan Hieronymus February 11, 2010 at 10:38 am #

    Joe – they do but I’d be just as surprised if Blue Moon White (the largest of those and growing off a large, established based) zipped ahead 12% (or more to bring up Sam Adams, et. al.).

    The one variable that can throw things off is pipeline feeding, which in fact has been a part of craft growth from the get-go. For instance, A-B introduced a beer called Hop Hound and even though I seldom saw it on shelves it may have sold a lot last year. New Belgium went into six new markets. And so on.

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