At Hiller’s Market in Southfield, Mich., adherence to the tagline “everyday to gourmet” is evident in sets where bottles of Bud keep company with brews like Short’s über Guber Oatmeal Stout.
Considered a “gift from heaven” by one craft enthusiast, the aromatic winter beer with a handful of peanuts in every bottle is just one intoxicant building excitement in a section comprising every Michigan craft brand available for retail distribution.
“One of my approaches in the category is to be first to market with emerging trends,” Ken McClure chief of operations for the seven-store family-owned independent, told SN.
That’s becoming a taller order now that traditional food retailers and even Wal-Mart Stores are forging ahead into the high-end beer space.
Last year, grocery retailers expanded their assortment of beer and malt-based beverages by 9.5 items on average, with seven of the additions being crafts, according to Nielsen.
The statistic isn’t exactly a revelation at a time when beers from small domestic brewers priced above $26 per case cast a bright light on an otherwise lackluster space.
While overall beer sales remained flat in 2011 with dollar sales up 1% and case sales down close to 2% in supermarkets, crafts posted their sixth consecutive year of double digit growth, with dollar sales spiking
15% and volume sales up 12.6% vs. the previous year, according to SymphonyIRI Group.
Food retailers are becoming more ensconced in the segment at a time when major players are tapping into upscale brews.
Last year, Anheuser-Busch acquired year-round and seasonal craft producer Goose Island Beer.
A-B is also throwing more of its heft behind a high-end portfolio encompassing Stella Artois, Beck’s, Leffe, Hoegaarden, Land Shark and Shock Top brands, said Mike Potthoff, vice president of large format for A-B.
The moves are designed to cater to eclectic beer tastes.
“There’s a myth that craft beer drinkers only buy craft beers. In reality, craft beer buyers spend more on premium and value beer than craft,” he said.
MillerCoors, with Blue Moon and Leinkugel’s in its portfolio, is likewise ramping up investment in the space. In 2011, it created the Tenth and Blake Beer Co. — a craft and import division — to capitalize premium brews. Tenth and Blake has a minority stake in Terrapin Beer Co., and earlier this month acquired the Crispin Cider Co.