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NORWALK, Conn. -- The beer industry is continuing its downward climb, losing 1.9 percent to reach a total of 2.8 billion cases. This is the fourth consecutive year the industry has posted a decrease.
According to the Beverage Information Group's "2011 Beer Handbook," drop-offs in the light segment once again added to the overall industry losses. The segment has seen declines from its core brands, with only pockets of growth from newly introduced line extensions.
Still, there are some bright spots within the beer industry: craft and import. The craft segment, which traditionally carries a higher price tag, continued to post solid gains due to consumers' attraction to the flavors craft brewers offer. Imports, which previously experienced declines, gained 0.9 percent to reach 362.8 million cases last year, but that is still 11.1 percent lower than its pre-recessionary levels.
"The super-premium, craft/specialty and flavored malt beverage categories have also benefited from the craft sector's growth," said Eric Schmidt, manager of information services for the Beverage Information Group. "Consumers are gravitating toward premium products with exciting and new flavors -- something the craft segment has done well in providing."
Despite those glimmers of hope, though, the report predicts a bleak future for the beer industry as whole. Two major economic woes -- rising fuel costs and high unemployment among its core consumers -- will play key roles in further declines. While the super-premium, craft/specialty and flavored malt beverage segments are predicted to show positive growth in the next five years; unfortunately, those gains won't offset the losses in the remaining domestic segments. The premium, light, popular, ice and malt liquor segments are all expected to decline in the short term.