Craft beer holding up in recession economy.

The news is essentially good.

As reported in the Friday issue of Beer Business Daily, these are some of things that Neilsen Research vice-president Nick Lake told Harry Schuhmacher at the Craft Brewers Conference in Boston:

For the first quarter, craft beer sales were up 6.5% in volume (I believe this includes Blue Moon so the BA might no concur when its figures are released);

Seasonals (up 28%) and variety cases (up 24%) are driving that growth;

This is happening despite the fact that crafts saw the highest price increases from last year, a fact Lake attributed to consumers “seeing the value” in craft brands;

As other sources have indicated, the trend is toward more drinking at home. To quote directly:

There has been a significant acceleration of shifting volume to the craft segment the past 13 weeks. The key thing to look at is that 63% of that gain has come from new craft beer buyers off-premise. “We believe that’s a function of people who were drinking on-premise who are now drinking off-premise. We think these shifts in behavior are going to stick with the consumer for awhile,” says Nick. This is good news for the craft segment off-premise. Not so good for restauranteurs or brewpubs.

Neilsen estimates that there are 12 -14 million craft beer buyers and that over 60% of the sales volume is purchased by slightly less than 2 million of them (around 14%).

As I’ve said before, if I ran a brewpub, I’d be cracking out a new “seasonal” as often as possible to keep ’em coming back, although most in this area seem to be holding up pretty well doing what they do from what I’ve seen.

Long term, the silver lining in this terrible recession might turn out to be that is helping further cement craft beer as a serious player in the wider industry as wholesalers, retailers and publicans become more aware of the higher profit margins while fighting for every dollar and consumers, many of them primarily wine drinkers previously, discover all the flavors and possibilities.

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