USA: Nearly one third of all craft beer breweries saw declining sales in 2017

In the context of a total beer market which dropped 1 percent by volume in 2017 craft brewers produced 25.4 million barrels (29.8 million hl), and saw a 5% rise in volume on a comparable base, according to preliminary figures released yesterday by the Brewers Association (BA). Craft beer sales increased by 8% in retail dollar value to $26.0 billion, representing 23.4% market share compared to the 12.7% market share by volume of the overall beer industry.

In 2017 the number of operating breweries in the U.S. grew 16 percent, totaling 6,372 breweries, broken down as follows: 3,812 microbreweries, 2,252 brewpubs, 202 regional craft breweries and 106 large or otherwise non-craft brewers. Small and independent breweries account for 98% of the breweries in operation. Throughout the year, there were 997 new brewery openings and 165 closings— a closing rate of 2.6%.

The new openings increased competition while growth per brewery decelerated to less than 200 barrels (235 hl) last year in comparison to almost 900 barrels (1,056 hl) in 2014. 27.3% of all craft beer breweries saw declining sales by more than 1%, 17% even by 10% or more.

“Much of the challenge was at the top, where the largest regional brewers are being pressed both from above and below,” said Bart Watson, chief economist, Brewers Association. “But even if we extend our view to all regionals, 30% were down more than -1%, and another 8% were between -1% and 1%. That leaves 62% of regionals up more than 1%, but a bit more than half of those were smaller than 30,000 barrels of total production. So the regionals that are growing tend to be the smallest regionals.”

“Growth for the craft brewing industry is adapting to the new realities of a mature market landscape,” added Watson. “Beer lovers are trending toward supporting their local small and independent community craft breweries. At the same time, as distribution channels experience increased competition and challenges, craft brewer performance was more mixed than in recent years, with those relying on the broadest distribution facing the most pressure.”

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