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    Walmart Tapping into Craft Beer

    Nation's biggest beer seller carving more shelf space for craft brews

    BENTONVILLE, Ark. -- Walmart is planning to add shelf space to accommodate more craft beers, said former CEO Lee Scott at the National Beer Wholesalers Association convention in Las Vegas this week. Advertising Age reported today that Scott, who retired as CEO in 2009 but still serves on the board, told distributors he recently spoke to a top Walmart official who is "clearly in line with the fact we've got to make more space, we have to have more representation on assortment."

    Scott explained that Walmart was built on price and assortment. "You can't take an area like beer where people are moving to craft and 'under-assort' yourself because the person who is buying craft beer and wants that assortment will drive to Kroger and pay the 15 percent more," said Scott, according to the magazine's report.

    Local store managers will have a big say in which new beers will be stocked where, said Scott. While craft beer still only commands about 5 percent of the beer market, these smaller, mostly regional brands are the only bright spot in beer, growing at a 14 percent clip compared with a 2 percent decline in the overall beer category, said experts at the convention.

    "Anyone who thinks this has peaked, we've maxed it out totally, I got news for ya -- not yet," Beer Marketers Insights president Benj Steinman told distributors. "Of course there is a theoretical limit and it is going to separate more out into winners and losers over time. But this is a trend that right now has the wind at its back."

    Indeed, according to Ad Age, craft was a star at this week's convention, attended by some 3,500 beer industry professionals. The "Craft Brewer's Pavilion," tucked in the corner of the trade show floor, was heavily trafficked, as brewers such as Allagash Brewing Co. from Maine and Stone Brewing Co. from California showed off their products. Of course, the big guys are also trying to get in on the action, putting more focus on their own smaller brands, such as Blue Moon by MillerCoors and Shock Top by Anheuser-Busch InBev.

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