While beer consumption in the United States fell during the beginning of the recession and again at the end of 2013, it is on the rise again and beer remains the most popular alcoholic beverage in the U.S. Americans will likely continue to choose beer over other types of alcoholic beverages, although the brand of beer they will choose is far less predictable. Consumer preferences regularly change in response to new ad campaigns, price, or for no detectable reason.
Sales of once unassailable beers such as Budweiser and Miller High Life have declined by more than 25% from 2010 through 2015. 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 changes in U.S. beer sales, 24/7 Wall St. reviewed the 10 fastest shrinking beers in America.
According to Eric Shepard, executive editor with industry news organization Beer Marketer’s Insights, these past five years have been “an especially challenging period for mainstream beer.” In an interview with 24/7 Wall St., Shepard said the decline in shipments of major beer brands could be due to, among other factors, the shift among beer drinkers to either higher priced brands or other alcoholic beverages.
The list of beer brands with declining shipments is dominated by light beers in the premium and sub-premium categories — lower priced beers like Miller High Life, Natural Light, and Keystone Light.
While these are low-priced beers, the cost of beer as a whole has gone up significantly in recent years, much more than other spirits. As Shepard suggested, mainstream beer brewers may have been too aggressive in their pricing strategy in recent years. Consumer prices increased by 31% between January 2003 and October 2015. The price of all beer purchased for home consumption over that time increased slightly slower than the average for all items, by 30%. The price increases of other alcohol beverages, such as whiskey at 22% and wine at 10%, were much lower.
Many drinkers are also increasingly choosing craft beers over mainstream beer brands. While craft beer sales still make up a very small share of the U.S. market, sales of these small scale beers have grown by 8% so far this year following double-digit growth over each of the past six years, according to Beer Marketer’s Insights. The rapid growth in craft beers — small, independent and traditional brewers — could reflect a growing emphasis on taste. All of the 10 beers with the fastest shrinking demand are rated by reviewers on beer forum Beer Advocate as either “poor” or “awful.”
To identify the 10 fastest-growing beer brands in America, 24/7 Wall St. reviewed shipment volumes provided by Beer Marketer’s Insights for all brands with more than 1 million barrels shipped in either 2010 or 2015. For reference, approximately 200 million barrels of beer are shipped to the United States in a given year. One barrel is equal to 31 gallons or 13.8 cases of 24 12-ounce bottles each.
These are America’s fastest shrinking beer brands.