Innovation set to kick-start US beer growth

By Chris Mercer

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags Cent Beer Alcoholic beverage

A new report has injected a much-needed shot of optimism into the
stagnant US beer market for 2006, yet the bad news just keeps on
coming in Western Europe.

US beer sales may have dipped 0.4 per cent in volume during 2005 as the key young adult market switched over to wine and spirits, but beer still made up 54 per cent of alcoholic drink sales, according to a new report from ACNielsen​.

And, despite the doom and gloom of the last two years, it says beer is ready for a comeback in 2006.

"Product innovations will re-establish beer as America's beverage,"​ said Nick Lake, vice president of business development at ACNielsen.

"In addition to new flavours and seasonal options, watch for continued packaging innovations. The success of mini-kegs and cooler packs are just two examples of innovations making it easy and desirable for people to add beer to their social occasions."

The report says core beer drinkers can be won over with more speciality-style beers, like Anheuser Busch's pumpkin spice ale launched last autumn, while those seeking milder flavours can look forward to seasonal beers in blueberry, strawberry and citrus.

Higher-priced beers, meanwhile, have continued to outperform the market, with imported brands growing at nine per cent annually and sales of speciality, 'craft' beers now seven per cent higher than a year ago.

The optimistic predictions follow an up-beat trading review from beer market leader Anheuser Busch (A-B). The group, which reports its full-year results Wednesday, said this month that wholesaler sales to retailers up 2.7 per cent in its fourth quarter.

It added that beer shipments would, however, be 1.8 per cent down for the year, compared to 2004. The brewer's sales and profits fell by 2.6 and 14 per cent respectively for the first nine months of 2005, leaving it predicting a drop in profits for the full year.

Yet, as America's beer market looked to shake off such bad news in the New Year, there was more gloom for brewers in Western Europe this week.

Germany's Federal Statistics Office announced beer sales had dropped 0.5 per cent, or by 500,000 hectolitres, in 2005. The dip marks a return to the downward trend seen in the key German market for five years before an up-turn in 2004.

Beer sales remained slow across several Western European markets last year, prompting Danish brewer Carlsberg to announce plans to shut half its European breweries within a decade and shift more of its operations eastwards, specifically to China.

Related topics Markets Beer & cider

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