Pop the Cap
In the five years since South Carolina “popped” the 6.5% alcohol by volume cap on beverages to allow for drinks with up to 17.5% volume, Piggly Wiggly Carolina Co. has grown its specialty, import and microbrew mix at the expense of mainstream domestics.
Today about 12 in 20 cases house nationally distributed beers with specialty imports, craft brews and malt beverages inhabiting the balance.
“Craft beers are taking share from major brands,” explained Nick Long, beer and wine category manager for the Charleston-based Piggly Wiggly Carolina Co.
So that it will be considered to distribute hard to find beers, Piggly Wiggly keeps close relationships with wholesalers and emphasizes local small batch brews.
Charleston-area specialties from Coast Brewing, Westbrook Brewing, Thomas Creek Brewery and others are merchandised side by side and will soon be identified with special signs.
Limited-edition seasonal styles are the No. 1 selling crafts, followed by pre-packaged, and do-it-yourself variety packs, said Long.
Together these segments hold roughly 30% share of total craft volume. Variety packs grew 19% in 2011 vs. 2010, according to Andrea Riberi, senior vice president of Nielsen’s Beer Group.
Craft multipacks are on the upswing across the board, with stronger growth in 12-packs than 6-packs. Larger packs can be purchased from $12 to $18 at Piggly Wiggly.
“It’s a good opportunity for people to receive three bottles each of four different varieties,” said Hiller’s McClure.
Indeed, these styles and forms are popular since they appeal to craft fans’ sense of adventure.
“That’s one of the biggest characteristics of craft beer drinkers; they’re open to trying everything and anything they can get their hands on,” Long said.
Since innovation is the hallmark of craft breweries, there is a plethora of beer types from which to choose.
“These breweries show extreme ingenuity with styles and ingredients from chocolate to coffee to barrel aging in bourbon and wine barrels,” Long said. “Consumers aren’t afraid to try anything.”