CHICAGO — If supermarket beer sales were an Olympic sport the gold front runner would be super-premium brews, crafts would take silver and imports bronze.
That’s according to mid-year dollar sales growth as reported by Dan Wandel, senior vice president of beverage alcohol client solutions for SymphonyIRI Group here.
Sales in the categories are up $93.1 million, $67.2 million and $32.2 million, respectively, he said during last month’s 2012 Mid-Year Beer Category & Craft Segment Review webinar. Click here for more on the Mid-Year Review.
Super-premium brands, defined by SymphonyIRI as priced around $22 and up per case, are typically made by larger domestic brewers and range from Bud Light Platinum to Michelob Ultra and Leinenkugel, Blue Moon and Land Shark, Wandel explained.
Leading the charge is Bud Light Platinum Lager, the best-selling new beer in supermarkets, which at 6% alcohol by volume is more potent than Bud Light (4.2%) and Budweiser (5%). Rounding out the top three new brands are Bud Light Lime A Rita — a ready-to-drink margarita with a twist of Bud Light Lime ($14.2 million), and Shock Top Wheat IPA ($1.2 million), a wheat beer married with the hoppy bitterness of an India Pale Ale.
“This has been a massive year for the category, which has really cranked up the innovation engine,” Wandel said.
Indeed, 2012 is on pace to achieve the highest volume sales attributed to new beer brands in seven years.
Craft beers, which are growing at a double-digit pace again this year across all channels tracked by SymphonyIRI, are driving the trend with notable entrants like Deschutes Chainbreaker White IPA, Pyramid Outburst Imperial IPA and New Belgium Shift Pale Lager.
So far this year, IPAs have surpassed seasonal brews to become the No. 1 craft style in supermarkets with 18% share vs. craft seasonal at 16.9% and craft pale ale at 12.3%. But that will likely change after sales from the highly anticipated fall and winter beer seasons are tallied, according to Wandel.
“I’m not about to give the title of top-selling craft style to IPAs just yet,” he said.
While craft fans are always game for trying something new, more and more are going the traditional route and experimenting with inventive brews packaged in cans rather than bottles.
Read more: Craft Beer: Top of the Hops
“Cans of craft beer are poised to explode on the scene this year with sales more than doubling,” Wandel said.
Though on a smaller base, alcoholic cider is also going gangbusters with supermarket dollar sales up 52% and volume 41%.
“Cider has an outstanding chance to surpass 2 million cases sold in supermarkets,” Wandel said.
Private-label beer is also on pace to achieve a second consecutive year of record sales as supermarkets and drug stores invest in proprietary crafts and sub-premium brews, which are driving the trend.
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