Last updated on September 5th, 2012 at 02:53 pm
by Katie B. Davis/staff writer
It’s been said that the more things change, the more they stay the same and the beer industry is a prime example.
Beer is the most popular alcoholic beverage in America and accounts for about 85 percent of the volume of alcoholic beverages sold in the United States each year. As of 2010, the top three beer companies in the U.S. were Anheuser-Busch, MillerCoors and Pabst Brewing Co. Corona Extra is the top imported beer, followed by Heineken.
However, much like in 2009 when overall beer sales fell 2.2 percent, craft beer, which saw sales upwards of 10.3 percent in 2010, is still the king of beers in the U.S.
Craft beer sales came in at just under 10 million barrels in 2010, an 11 percent annual increase, while total U.S. beer sales were down 1 percent, to 203.5 million barrels, according to the Brewers Association.
The Brewers Association, the not-for-profit trade group that tabulates production statistics for U.S. breweries, released its annual lists reporting the top 50 brewing companies in the country, based on 2010 beer sales volume.
Thirty-six of the top 50 brewing companies are small and independent craft brewing companies.
“There are success stories all over this country of craft breweries that are taking off, because they’ve really connected with consumers,” Paul Gatza of The Brewers Association told The Shelby Report. “It’s almost as if they’ve reached a critical mass of public awareness and they’re putting out high quality beers that people will buy and then they try them and they love them and then they come back and buy more.”
Craft breweries are defined as breweries that produce less than 2 million barrels of beer a year, are at least 75 percent locally owned and do at least 50 percent of their business in all-malt beers. There are 1,542 craft breweries in the United States, up from 1,485 at the end of 2008.
“I think it’s the flavor,” Gatza said. “The American consumer is looking for more flavor and I think beer is just in the natural trend of people being willing to invest in the personal satisfaction they get from trying a product that they really, really like.
“Beer lovers’ appreciation for American craft brewers and their craft beers continues to grow and it’s not only seen in bars and restaurants, but in the grocery industry where folks are picking up a six pack of Sierra Nevada and walking away, not even touching what we consider the big brewers.
“There are only a handful states that disallow grocers from carrying any kind of beer they want and the reasoning is that beer sales in grocery stores is profitable especially when you consider that it’s more readily convenient and available to run to your grocer and grab some Sweetwater, than go to a specialty store where at times the selection can be overwhelming,” Gatza added.
But grocers aren’t the only ones catering to consumers’ wants and need for convenience. According to the National Association of Convenience Stores (NACS), nearly 80 percent of convenience stores sell beer, accounting for nearly one-third of all beer purchased in the United States, about 93 percent of which is sold cold. The U.S. convenience store industry sells more than 2 billion gallons of beer a year—roughly one-third of all the beer purchased in the United States.