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Industry Trends

Nielsen Reports on Year End Beer and Wine Sales

January 6, 2014 By: Jack Robertiello

Beer Sales Up At Year's End, While Wine Sales Puzzle


ReportsHow did your holidays go?

No, not the tinsel and tree, gift-giving season, but how did business play out over the six weeks or so between Thanksgiving and New Year’s Eve? It’s often a mixed blessing for bar and restaurant operators, with a higher level of special events and casual holiday groups showing up at your door, and then those busy shopping days when customers arrive in waves, ebbing and flowing.

Given the mixed economic data of the past few months, it’s still too early to know, but recent reports might help identify what the industry did as a whole.

More than the on-premise, retailers of beer, wine and spirits depend on the last six weeks of the year for a major bump in sales. Judging by beer volumes, as reported by Nielsen, the four-week period ending Dec. 21 showed beer volumes were up nearly six percent year over year, though most of that growth was attributed to the lateness of Thanksgiving this year (Nov. 28 versus Nov. 22 last year). Still, dollars were up as well, 9.4 percent.

Which brands did especially well? Among the bigger brands, Modelo Especial was up more than 35 percent, Samuel Adams seasonal offerings grew 26 percent compared to the same period last year, as did Samuel Adams Boston Lager (up 25.4 percent), Pacifico (up 21.6 percent), Blue Moon (20.8 percent), and Corona Extra (up 17.1 percent).

Nielsen also reported that wine sales got a boost among the major retailers they track in food, drug and other outlets. In the same four-week period, wine category dollar sales were up 13.2 percent year over year while volume was up 8.7 percent.

About those growing wine sales: according to Restaurant Sciences, a firm that tracks food and beverage product sales throughout the foodservice industry in North America, sales on-premise of wine fell 2.6 percent from May 2013 to October 2013, compared to the same period in 2012. It will be interesting to see if those reports coincide with upcoming data from the Wine Market Council on 2013, but the bright spot in the Restaurant Sciences report occurred in the family dining and quick service restaurants, where more than 10 percent growth was calculated. (The company says their report is the result of analysis of more than $1.2 billion in on-premise wine sales.)

“Despite growth in several categories, overall wine sales fell because bars and nightclubs sold 17.7 percent less wine from May to October 2013 than the previous year,” said Chuck Ellis, president and CEO of Restaurant Sciences LLC. “On a positive note, wine sales in quick service restaurants grew 10.2% over this same period. With an estimated 12 percent of 30,000 fast casual locations distributing wine, this segment provides ample opportunity for expansion, and we expect the wine industry to take notice.”

A 17.7 percent reduction in the bar and nightclub segment, as Restaurant Sciences groups establishments, is a major hit and requires some explanation. Meanwhile upscale casual restaurants saw an eight percent wine volume growth, while the institutional/hotel group rose 7.8 percent. Casual dining wine consumption fell 2.7 percent, while white tablecloth rose 3.6 percent. Full service restaurants overall inched up 0.7 percent, according to the report.


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