All of the recent chatter about craft beer has drowned out good news about a well-established beer category: imported beer. A quick look at recent performance numbers from our State of the Industry Report reveals positive trends:
- Imported beer enjoyed its fourth consecutive year of volume growth in 2013.
- Imported beer’s share of total U.S. beer volume is twice that of craft—14.1% vs. 7.0%—and increasing.
- Eight of the top 10 imported beer brands achieved volume growth in 2013; two of them recorded double-digit percentage gains.
- Mexican imports account for two-thirds of leading imported beer brand volume and are among the fastest-growing imports, but Belgian Stella Artois is delivering strong numbers as well.
- Imported beer has held steady at approximately one-quarter of on-premise beer sales in recent years.
Variety and innovation are hallmarks of imported beer, and the major players continue to deliver. Corona Light’s expansion on draft this year will bring a new dynamic to restaurants and bars; Corona Extra on tap is being tested in select markets. Meanwhile, Heineken USA this year will bring out line extensions for Dos Equis and Amstel, as well as a new entry, Desperados, involving beer aged in tequila barrels. Heineken USA also plans to turn up the marketing volume for its flagship Heineken brand and to continue promoting Newcastle Ale with tongue in cheek.
A growing consumer group, Hispanics, favors imported beer—and Mexican labels in particular. But the imported-beer consumer in general tends to be Millennial, to skew male and to be fairly affluent, with a larger portion of imported-beer consumers having an annual income upward of $75,000.
Given the category’s appeal to key consumer groups, the level of innovation and marketing activity present and the category’s premium positioning, imported beer’s outlook in 2014 is positive. That’s a message on-premise and off-premise operators need to hear, and heed, as they look to grow beer sales and satisfy beer consumers.