Beer is slipping. Here's what Americans are
By Jordan Valinsky, CNN Business
December 6, 2019
Domestic brews, such as Budweiser, Coors Light and Miller Light, once dominated the US
beverage market. But sales are declining while alternatives are spiking. Drinkers think beer is
stale, compared to the innovative new brands and creative concepts emerging from other places,
so they are craving a variety of other boozy drinks, including premium liquor, canned wine,
spiked seltzers and pre-made bottled cocktails. In 2018, alcohol consumption in the United States
dropped for the third-straight year, according to IWSR Drinks Market Analysis. And beer is to
blame: Sales of a case of beer declined 1.5%. For the past five years, beer volume in the US
declined 2.4%, the firm said.
The trend doesn't appear to be reversing itself. Sales of domestic beer slipped 4.6% between
October 2018 and October 2019, according to Nielsen. Microbrew and craft beers are also in a
minor slump, down 0.4%, despite Big Beer companies scooping them up left and right
(AnheuserBusch just purchased Craft Brew Alliance, which makes Redhook Ale).
But people are still drinking — a lot. Alternative drink categories that both firms tracked have all
grown. With traditional beer getting the boot, here's what people are drinking instead.
Perhaps no other alcoholic drinks had more of a breakout year than White Claw because people
are seeking drinks lower in sugar and calories. The spiked seltzer brand exploded over the
summer and shows no signs of slowing down. Sales cracked $1.2 billion for the previous 52
weeks ending on October 5 — a nearly 200% jump in growth year over year.
White Claw is the country's top-selling spiked seltzer brand.
Although White Claw remains the United States' top-selling spiked seltzer brand, rival brands
have also found success. Truly, which is produced Boston Beer (SAM), is also growing in
popularity. Analysts at Guggenheim said in a recent report that Truly is driving "more than 100%
of the company's retail growth" and is helping the company, which makes Sam Adams lager,
beer-proof itself. In contrast, the company's flagship beer, Samuel Adams, sales fell 11% and its
60 Minute IPA fell 14% for a 12-week period ending on November 2, according to Guggenheim.
The spiked seltzer fever has also caught on with Anheuser-Busch InBev (BUD). It has two wellestablished brands, Bon & Viv and the beer-and-fruit flavored Natural Light seltzer, with plans
to add a third based off its Bud Light brand. Bud Light Seltzer "falls in a spot in between our
other seltzer brands," meaning it will be more expensive than Natural Light and cheaper than
Bon & Viv. It's scheduled to launch in early 2020.
The portability and attractive price point of canned wine has helped sparked a new trend. Nielsen
reports a 73% jump in sales between October 2018 and October 2019, totaling $54 million.
Seattle-based Precept Wine has helped grow the space with its line of brands, including selling
its popular House Wine in a can in 2017. CEO and founder Andrew Browne told CNN Business
that the idea came from its customers seeking portable wine for social events, like boating and
House Wine has been a boon for its parent company. The company told CNN Business that its
canned wines sales are doubling the industry growth average, according to data it obtained from
Nielsen. It has expanded its line of canned drinks to a wine spritzer brand, called Day Drinking
with country brand Little Big Town.It's mulling an expansion of flavors, including fruit flavors
and sangria. Precept Wine is projecting to sell 300,000 cases of all of its canned wine brands by
end of year.
Growth in the sector has also attracted the attention of AB InBev. In July, the brewer bought
Babe Wine, a company co-founded by popular Instagram influencer Josh "The Fat Jewish"
Ostrovsky and brothers David Oliver Cohen and Tanner Cohen. They are the writers behind the
Babe Walker @whitegrlproblem Twitter account. Babe sells its pinot grigio, rosé and red wines
in cans. Terms of the purchase were not disclosed but a source close to the deal previously told
CNN Business that it is AB InBev's biggest investment in wine to date.
Popular overseas, the pre-made cocktail trend is finally hitting the states. A mix of established
alcohol companies and startups are looking to enter the growing space. Sales of prepared
cocktails, which includes drinks in glass, canned and plastic bottles, jumped 17% to $323 million
between October 2018 and October 2019, according to Nielsen.
Haus, a startup that aims to be the "Warby Parker of alcohol," is one stylish direct-to-consumer
brand that entered the sector this year. Haus cofounder and co-CEO Helena Price Hambrecht told
CNN Business that their bottled cocktail company was created for what a new generation of
drinkers want — a drink with natural ingredients and lower alcohol content. "They're perfect as
a cocktail base or on their own, and they're designed for the generation that loves the social ritual
of gathering, but wants a little less booze," she said of the brand's drinks that have a third of
alcohol content of hard liquor. Haus sells two drinks: Citrus Flower and Bitter Clove, each
costing $35 per bottle. The company declined to disclose specific sales numbers, but said it has
received "several thousand" orders since launching in June.
Spirits from whiskey to tequila grew for the ninth straight year in 2018, according to the Distilled
Spirits Council, a national trade organization that represents distilled spirits makers in the US.
The trend is still growing this year, according to Nielsen. Spirits sales grew 6% to $15 billion
from October 2018 to October 2019, according to Nielsen. Tequila grew the most at 13%,
whiskey was in second at nearly 8% and vodka jumped 3%.
Jack Daniels' owner Brown-Forman expects another year of "solid results."
Jack Daniels-maker Brown-Forman (BFA) continued to have a strong year. In its most recent
earnings report, its portfolio of super-premium American whiskeys, including Woodford
Reserve, Jack Daniel's Single Barrel and Gentleman Jack and its tequila brands, led by
Herradura, all had double digit percentage increases. CFO Jane Morreau said in its earnings call
that the company expects to deliver another year of "solid results."
McDonald's, Burger King, Five Guys among
22 burger chains given “F” over antibiotics
By Sarah Lynch Baldwin
October 17, 2018 / CBS News
Twenty-two of the top 25 U.S. burger chains – including McDonald's, Burger King, White
Castle and Five Guys – received a failing grade in a review assessing their practices and policies
on antibiotics use in their beef products. Only two chains were given an "A" rating.
The scores were published Wednesday in a report called "Chain Reaction IV: Burger Edition,"
which was produced by the Center for Food Safety, Consumer Reports, Food Animal Concerns
Trust, U.S. PIRG Education Fund, Friends of the Earth, and Natural Resources Defense Council.
The report says 22 chains received "F" grades "for lacking any announced policy to source beef
raised without the routine use of antibiotics."
Wendy's received a "D-" because 15 percent of its beef is sourced from producers that cut the use
of tylosin, an antibiotic, by one-fifth, it says.
Only two chains – Shake Shack and BurgerFi – received an "A" rating. "Both companies
currently serve only beef raised without antibiotics," the report says.
The report notes that while Fuddruckers, Steak 'n Shake and Farmer Boys – which received "F
grades" – have no antibiotics policies, they offer a burger option made of beef raised without
Overuse of antibiotics in livestock can cause resistant bacteria to spread, putting humans at risk
of developing life-threatening infections. The report says many meat producers give animals
antibiotics to encourage quicker growth or stave off disease, calling it a routine practice.
"When antibiotics stop working, diseases become harder to treat, life-saving surgeries riskier to
perform, and a scrape on the knee can even turn deadly," Jean Halloran, director of Food Policy
Initiatives in the advocacy division of Consumer Reports, said in a news release Wednesday.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) calls antibiotic resistance "one of the
biggest public health challenges of our time." The World Health Organization (WHO) calls it
"one of the biggest threats to global health, food security, and development today."
"Each year in the U.S., at least 2 million people get an antibiotic-resistant infection, and at least
23,000 people die," the CDC says.
The WHO says antibiotic resistance is a natural occurrence accelerated by the misuse of
antibiotics in both animals and humans.
In a statement, McDonald's spokesperson Lauren Altmin said "preserving the effectiveness of
antibiotics for future generations is highly important" to the company.
"In 2016, McDonald's fully implemented its pledge to no longer serve chicken treated with
antibiotics important to human medicine in its US restaurants, which led to the 2018
implementation of an antibiotic use policy for broiler chicken in markets around the globe.
McDonald's is currently finalizing a global antibiotics policy for beef, to begin roll out before the
end of 2018," Altmin said.
In-N-Out Burger said it "remains committed to beef that is raised without the use of antibiotics
important to human medicine. We've had many discussions with our suppliers to explore ways to
accomplish this goal."
The report urges burger chains and lawmakers to take action.
"While restaurants and major meat producers have critical roles to play in stopping the overuse
of antibiotics, the government must also act to achieve the kind of lasting, industry-wide change
needed to fully protect public health," the report says.
"Policymakers should only allow beef producers to use medically important antibiotics under the
guidance of a licensed veterinarian, and to treat animals diagnosed with an illness or to control a
verified disease outbreak," it says.
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