Among the Top 10 supermarket categories last year, only beer (No. 4) and wine (No. 9) experienced both dollar and volume growth, according to data from Information Resources Inc.
“Beer continues to be a dependable category that retailers can rely on not only for dollars, but also volume,” said Dan Wandel, senior vice president of IRI's beverage alcohol client solutions.
Beer made another notable accomplishment last year as sales trends outpaced those for wine/spirits in supermarkets for the first time in five years.
Beer generated $8 billion in supermarkets for the 52 weeks ending Feb. 22, a 4.9% growth, according to IRI.
The segment with the most growth was superpremium — brands like Michelob Ultra Light, Bud Light Lime, Blue Moon and Michelob Light, which sell for about $22 to $31 per case.
Domestic superpremium beer generated $715.1 million in sales in food stores for the 52 weeks ending Feb. 22, a 25.4% growth compared with the same period in 2008.
IRI attributes some of that to consumers trading down from wine and spirits to superpremium beer.
Also, beer is benefiting as consumers tighten their belts and Americans increasingly consume alcoholic beverages at home rather than in bars or restaurants.
Indeed, when asked what they're doing to stay within their budgets, 56% of consumers said they're cutting down on out-of-home entertainment, according to a Nielsen survey.
Many consumers view high-end superpremium beer as an affordable luxury.
“Consumers are looking for value,” said Nick Lake, Nielsen's beverage alcohol vice president.
Likewise, retailers have boosted merchandising support for superpremium because of the higher basket ring that accompanies the segment.
Retailers gave superpremium 35.4 weeks of merchandising support in 2008, a 1.7-week increase from 2007, according to IRI. In comparison, subpremium beer had 33 weeks of support for the same period, a 0.7-week drop.
Michelob Ultra Light, Bud Light Lime, Blue Moon and other “superpremium” beers are posting the most growth.
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SOURCE: IRI, based on food-store sales for the 52 weeks ending Feb. 22, compared with the same period in 2008.