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Home | News | Marketing | Domestic US beers under pressure

Domestic US beers under pressure

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Craft beers like New Belgium's Fat Tire seen as 'better quality'

Mintel survey finds switching to wine, craft beer

American consumers are switching away from beer in favour of ‘bolder, healthier’ alcoholic drink alternatives, a survey by Mintel has found.

According to the survey, 20% of US consumers say they are cutting back on domestic beer brand consumption because it is thought to have too many calories. Meanwhile, 15% believe beer to be unhealthy.

Mintel claimed these trends have helped boost wine sales, which is often seen as a healthier drink. The market research firm has the US wine market increasing in value by 2.6% to an estimated $42 billion in 2013, compared to a stagnant 0.3% increase for beer.

These sales figures are reflected in the survey, with 22% of US consumers claiming to be drinking less domestic beer because they are drinking wine instead. A further 18% say they increasingly prefer spirits over beer.

However, it’s not all bad news for the American beer market. Despite flat sales across the market as a whole, craft beer continues to meet consumer demand for variety and different flavours. Mintel said craft beer is the one beer segment that has benefited from increased interest from 22 to 44-year-olds.In addition, nearly 55% of all beer drinkers said that they like to try new alcoholic drinks like craft beer or hard cider.

Also working in craft beer’s favour, especially among the 25 to 34 age group, is the preference for smaller producers. The survey found that 51% of US consumers feel smaller producers make better quality products than their larger brethren.

Jennifer Zegler, global food and drink analyst at Mintel, said: “We’ve seen for years that Americans of legal drinking age are no longer only beer, wine, or spirits drinkers. Instead, they’re trying a variety of alcoholic beverages, with consumers curious to try new craft beers, hard ciders, sparkling wine, and flavoured spirits.”

Zegler added: “However, this thirst for variety has led to flat volume sales for brewers, even though people are buying more of much-smaller segments like craft beer and hard cider. Brewers of all sizes must cater to this curiosity with new styles, taste profiles, and limited-edition options.”

Beer innovation

To that end, brewers everywhere seem to be getting the message and are responding in kind. According to Mintel, beer represented 44% of new alcoholic product launches globally in 2013, up from only 15% in 2009. From 2012 to 2013 alone, the number of new beer launches increased by a whopping 113%.

The top increase in new beer products remains with ‘limited edition’ beers, which were up by 850% in the US from 2010 to 2013.

However, while craft brewers have led the trend of seasonal releases, consumers admit that it’s more than their beer that they change depending on the season. Zegler said. “This means adults are always reconsidering their alcoholic beverage choices, leaving manufacturers constantly competing for consumption.” 

Yet, loyalty might not be out of grasp. Further Mintel research has found that alcoholic beverage consumption declines with age, suggesting that manufacturers could benefit by courting the drinkers aged 22 to 34, who might be making more educated choices before they develop into long-term habits.

Zegler said: “Despite the current lack of loyalty among drinkers, there’s the possibility that 25 to 34-year-olds are cutting back on their experimentation as they age. This could be a time when they are establishing their favourite products, or at best preferred brands, to which they might remain loyal throughout their adulthood.

“Therefore, it’s even more imperative that manufacturers form authentic connections with these young adults of legal drinking age, but continue to capture their interest with a rotation of new products.”


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