Craft Beer at the Local Grocery Store

We mentioned awhile back the upward trend of craft beer sales, particularly in supermarkets, which are stocking 20% more craft beer than a year ago, and increased craft sales by 18% in 2006. Judging by this article in the August issue of Progressive Grocer (What’s that, you let your subscription lapse?), it looks like the grocery retailing industry is taking notice:

Craft beers have grown so much in popularity that just about any grocer could be missing a major opportunity by not exploiting the segment. They’re the little powerhouses that can help the overall huge but nevertheless struggling beer business better compete with wine and spirits. For supermarket beer merchandisers, the question ought not to be whether to get involved, but to what degree.

How’s that for a promising opening paragraph in a grocery industry trade mag? The piece also touches briefly on the history of beer in America, from the Pilgrims at Plymouth Rock, to Fritz Maytag’s revival of Anchor Brewing and the current craft beer explosion. What may be most interesting, however, is this bit:

Over the 52 weeks ending June 9, 2007, 646 craft beer brands have sold at least 1,000 cases each in America’s supermarkets. That’s an 11 percent increase compared with 2005. By way of comparison, only 245 import brands have crossed the 1,000-case threshold in supermarkets over the same period. Import brand count has also increased over the past two years, up nearly 12 percent vs. 2005. As a result of all this brew brand proliferation, the shelves are growing crowded. Today the average American supermarket stocks over 23 different craft beer items. When balanced against the average number of items stocked for the entire beer/malt-based beverage category count of 195 items, craft beers appear to be a fairly small presence, yet they’ve increased their count by more than 33 percent over the past two years, exceeding the growth rate of import beers.

It’s important to remember that those include national figures, both the craft beer hotbeds and macro-wastelands. Still, pretty encouraging numbers overall. We’ve noticed that the local grocery shelves have included more and more choices in recent months. Most are those tied to the big boys — Miller’s Lienenkugel, A-B’s Redhook — but regionals like Otter Creek and Long Trail and local stuff like Saratoga’s Mendocino or Glens Falls’ Davidson Brother’s have become increasingly common.

Rochester based Wegmans grocery has a very impressive selection of beer, especially in some of their bigger stores. We used to buy single bottle’s of Sam Smith’s at Wegmans as far back as five years ago, and offerings now include plenty of 22 oz. bombers (including most of the line from Middle Ages) in Syracuse area stores we’ve visited. Wegmans is even leading the charge among supermarkets selling beer in Pennsylvania.

Obviously, there is still a long way to go. Wegmans is a pretty unique chain, and they are currently expanding to the southeast rather than in our direction. It looks like it will be some time before we’re able to find more than a handful of legitimate beer choices with our weekly grocery shopping, but this grocery industry awareness of craft beer can only be a good sign.


~ by bojangles on August 22, 2007.

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