The on-premise story for beer in 2009 was a good news/bad news scenario. Total beer sales declined 2.0 percent total and 3.9 percent on-premise, according to Beer Institute data presented by Lester Jones, chief economist for the organization. That trend was due to consumers shifting to off-premise consumption as a result of the recession. One segment where this trend played out significantly was among imports, evidenced by a shift from bottles to cans among import beers in 2009. Import bottles lost 16 percent of volume, while import cans gained 20 percent, according to Beer Institute data.
Jones indicated the immediate forecast was “mixed” for beer — it should improve with increases in employment — but he was optimistic about the longer-term outlook in light of the entry of Millennials on the on-premise scene. “There’s a good demographic coming our way,” he said of the 16- to 33-year-old generation that totals 70 million people. Currently, 14.9 percent of the legal drinking age (LDA) population is in the sweet spot for beer – 21 to 27 years old – and numbers 29.4 million; as Millennials age and more come into LDA, the environment for beer on-premise should improve.
Speaking on behalf of the Brewers Association, Paul Gatza, joked that 2009 was a “tough year” for craft brewers, noting that after several years of double-digit dollar sales for the segment, craft beer grew only 10.3 percent in sales and 7.2 percent in volume.
Calling craft beer consumers “cross-drinkers,” Gatza noted that about one-quarter of craft imbibers are sourced from wine and spirits consumers, adding that craft drinkers tend to enjoy a variety of adult beverages. The leading styles of craft beer are seasonals, pale ale, amber, IPA and amber lager; IPAs and Belgian ales are the two fastest growing styles, according to Gatza’s data.