Some retailers are finding that imports and premium beers are catching consumers' attention.
At Brookshire Grocery Co., Tyler, Texas, endcaps and displays that cross merchandise beer with other summer products are being used to promote both imports and premium domestics, according to Sam Anderson, director of public relations.
"Imports have increased by double digits in recent years," agreed Ross Nixon, vice president of merchandising for Dahl's Food Markets, Des Moines, Iowa. "We take part in the manufacturers' promotions, like Budweiser's pizza tie-in and Miller's Harley-Davidson campaign. But a lot of beer sales are weather-oriented, and promotions are done locally. Sales were flat for a couple of years, but they have started to pick up a little in the last year."
Driven by low prices and weekly coupons, beer sales at Save Mart Supermarkets, Modesto, Calif., have continued a three-year increase, said Mark Endres, buyer/merchandiser for wine, liquor and beer. Save Mart relies on beating competitors' prices to draw customers.
"Our demographics in the central valley are highly Hispanic," Endres said, "so Corona and Budweiser are popular. Those two have been promoted a lot recently by the manufacturers. Corona, Heineken and Foster are pounding the competition.
"We do coupons in monthly and weekly promotions and tie those in with endcap displays in the stores," he said. "Then we also cross merchandise with snacks like pretzels and chips, or we promote Samuel Adams with Cape Cod potato chips to do a theme."
Tom Roesner, buyer/merchandiser for beer, wine and liquor for Seaway Food Town, Maumee, Ohio, agreed.
"We cross merchandise with chips, and we also promote the 12-packs and 24-packs because larger packages sell in the summer. We price popular imports, like Labatt's and Molsen, the same as domestic premiums. With the strong economy and people having money, they want to drink a better beer. Then we use in-aisle displays to catch attention," he said.
"For us, the flavored beers are out, just like wine coolers that were so popular a few years ago," he added.
While the varieties may be decreasing, predictions are that the number of brands will not diminish in the near future, despite stiff competition in the category and the consolidation of manufacturers. Beer manufacturers are beginning to enter the global marketplace, just as other industries are, and some consolidations are being seen, said Joshua Leibowitz, a consultant at McKinsey & Co., a marketplace consulting group with offices in New York and Toronto.
However, the slow pace of globalization in the beer industry and the fact that manufacturers continue to produce the brands they acquire, rather than discontinuing them, probably will mean the consumer will not see many changes as the beer industry enters the international market, Leibowitz predicted.