Beverage giant Anheuser-Busch Inbev made a more than $100 billion offer last month to buy its main competitor, SABMiller. The resulting conglomerate will be by far the largest beer company in the world with annual sales of more than $55 billion.
The new company will be in an excellent position to navigate the lucrative but ever-changing landscape of the $100 billion U.S. beer market. In the last five years alone, Americans’ drinking preferences have substantially shifted. Once unassailable beers such as Budweiser and Miller High Life have seen sales decline by more than 25% from 2009 through 2014. Meanwhile, sales of such beers as Modelo Especial and Stella Artois — once more marginal brands in the United States — have more than doubled. Based on five-year increases in U.S. sales, 24/7 Wall St. reviewed the 10 fastest-growing beers in America.
Beer Marketer’s Insights executive editor Eric Shepard explained to 24/7 Wall St. “It’s been a very difficult period for mainstream brands, particularly full-calorie mainstream brands, but that’s also [true] with the major light brands as well.” Despite huge investments from their parent companies, sales figures for many of the top selling beers in the U.S. continue on a downward trend. “They know this, they are doing what they can to address this, and so far their efforts have not been that successful.”
In the place of these established brands has been the astronomical rise in the popularity of specialty and craft beers. According to the Brewer’s Association, while overall U.S. beer sales increased by 0.4%, craft beer sales were up by 19.6%. Brands such as Blue Moon and shandy brand Leinenkugel, both of which are owned by a major beverage company, have capitalized on this trend. Americans, and particularly millennials, are choosing brands that are labeled as “craft” beers, even as they sell more than 1 million barrels a year.
“Millennials are much more promiscuous in their drinking habits,” explained Shepard. Adding that some established brands, such as Pabst Blue Ribbon, have had some success establishing a non-mainstream identity that appeals to a segment of the millennial generation. Shepard noted, however, that this was exceedingly difficult to accomplish.
In addition to the growth of craft beers, several Mexican beers have been among the fastest growing in the country. This includes Modelo Especial, the fastest growing major brand in the United States. Sales of the brand grew from 1.9 million barrels in 2009 to 4.5 million in 2014. According to Shepard, everything is going right at the same time for several of these brands. “It’s a combination of demographically-driven, with the [growing] Hispanic population, and the fact that they are now expanding to the mainstream audience.” Shepard said. As evidence of this, Modelo Especial had its first major english-language commercial in the United States earlier this year.
To identify the 10 fastest-growing beer brands in America beer brands, 24/7 Wall St. reviewed sales figures provided by Beer Marketer’s Insights on all brands with more than 400,000 barrels shipped in either 2008 or 2014.
Correction: A previous version of this article incorrectly stated that Modelo Especial’s parent company is Anheuser-Busch Inbev. In the United States, the brand is owned and brewed by Constellation Brands.
These are America’s fastest growing beer brands.