Craft Records 4% Volume Growth in 2019

Dear Client:

The tallies for 2019 are in from the Brewers Association, and in it we see another year of slow and steady growth for craft.

Just like 2018, BA-defined craft “maintained a fairly stable growth rate in 2019 and continued to gain share in the beer market,” said BA chief economist Bart Watson.

26.3 MILLION BARRELS IN 2019. Indeed, craft volume growth continued to chug along at a +4% clip in 2019, having produced 26.3 million barrels, a near million-barrel increase over 2018 volume (25.5 million barrels). You may recall that 2018 number was originally reported as 25.9 million in last year’s report; but Bart says they re-examine numbers every year, and are subject to change. With that revision to last year’s number, Bart says craft volume growth was more like 3% in 2018.

VOLUME SHARE NOW AT 13.6%. Craft’s volume share continues to creep up too, moving from 13% of the overall beer market in 2018 to 13.6% in 2019. 

DOLLAR SHARE AT 25.2%. But retail dollars are growing a little bit faster. Craft retail dollar value was “estimated at $29.3 billion, representing 25.2% market share and 6% growth over 2018,” according to the release.

OVER 8,000 BREWERIES OPERATING IN 2019. There were almost 700 new breweries operating in 2019, as the number of operating breweries in the states grew from an estimated 7,582 in 2018 to approximately 8,275 in 2019.

That 8,275 number is made up of 2,058 microbreweries, 3,011 brewpubs, 2,966 taproom breweries, and 240 regional craft breweries.

AT-THE-BREWERY SALES NOW OVER 3.5 MILLION BARRELS. On a follow up call to this growth report from the BA, Bart shared some estimates on direct to consumer sales over the year, stating that based on the data they’re seeing, premise use volume rose approximately 400,000 barrels in 2019 to 3.6 million barrels. That would mean that around 40%-45% of the total craft volume increase in 2019 was derived from at-the-brewery sales (taprooms and brewpubs). 

REGIONALS UP 1% IN 2019. As for regional breweries, “after being static to slightly down in 2018,” Bart said regionals “returned to a small amount of growth, up 1% in 2019.” He believes this uptick shows regionals are on “a little bit more solid footing,” having made the difficult choices to rationalize their SKU portfolio and geographic footprint.  “There aren’t that many regionals that have eye popping growth numbers anymore,” Bart said, “but unlike last year where we saw some really huge drops most regionals even if they’re down, are down a little bit more slightly suggesting they’ve shored up parts of the business.”

LATEST NUMBERS ON OPENINGS AND CLOSINGS. These numbers aren’t shifting that dramatically, but it does appear that the number of openings is slowly shrinking year over year, while the number of closings increase. In 2018 there were 1,049 new brewery openings and 219 closings, this past year there were 942 new brewery openings and 294 closings.

Finally, when it comes to jobs… “craft brewers provided more than 160,000 direct jobs, an increase of 7% over 2018,” according to the release.

While these annual reports have revealed fairly consistent growth across the board – volume, dollars, market share, amount of breweries, and contribution to economy – the BA admits that that steady streak is sure to change with this current year, given the COVID-19 crisis. 

“Although craft brewers entered 2020 on a solid foundation, the beer landscape is dramatically different today than it was just a few months ago,” Bart pointed out in the release. “Breweries will be facing new realities due to the pandemic with extended closures, tight cash flow, societal shifts, and other economic variables in play. These 2019 figures will allow us to see how much COVID-19 affects small brewer production and jobs.”

Until tomorrow,

Jenn, Jordan, and Harry 

“In these matters the only certainty is that nothing is certain.”

– Pliny the Elder

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