Boston Slows

Boston Beer reported a 47 percent fall in fourth-quarter profit, hurt by higher costs of raw and packaging materials and expenses related to its Pennsylvania brewery start-up. Fourth quarter core product depletions increased 2% and net revenue grew 13%.

Core shipment volume for the fiscal year ended December 27, 2008, net of recall returns but including any recall related replenishment shipments, was slightly less than 2.0 million barrels, an 8% increase from the same period in the prior year.

“We reported 2% depletions growth in the fourth quarter, bringing depletions growth for the second half of 2008 to 7%, as compared to 10% depletions growth in the first half of 2008,” said Jim Koch, Chairman and founder of the Company. “Our trends in the first two months of 2009 have slowed slightly from the fourth quarter and while the better beer category appears reasonably healthy, we believe we may be losing share in recent months as the drinker is faced with more choices. We believe that craft beer will continue to grow and that we are well positioned to share in that growth through the quality of our beers, our innovation capability and our sales execution, coupled with our strong financial position and ability to invest in growing our brand,” he added.

Year-to-date depletions through February 2009 were down about 9 percent from the year-ago period, with two fewer selling days in 2009.