US beer shipments down big in ‘09

Total U.S. beer sales volumes fell 2.2% last year, the highest rate since the 1950s, with demand worsening late in the year in a sign of the pressures on big brewers to make their mergers pay off.

Craft brands on the other hand were of course the one bright spot, posting a probable increase in the low single digits although specific figures for craft are not yet available.

The two major brewers increased prices by about 5% last year, fresh off InBev NV’s acquisition of Anheuser-Busch Cos. and the move by SABMiller PLC and Molson Coors Brewing Co. to combine U.S. operations. Those increases, along with a weak job market and lackluster advertising, contributed to the sales drop, industry analysts said.

Anheuser is trying to pare debt incurred from InBev NV’s $52 billion buy of Anheuser-Busch in 2008. Spokesmen for Anheuser and MillerCoors declined to comment.

Anheuser and MillerCoors, which control nearly 80% of U.S. beer sales, posted strong profit gains in the first nine months of 2009, buoyed by higher prices and cost cuts that followed the 2008 mergers.

But longer-term, they’ll need to restore sales-volume growth because cost cuts and price hikes will be harder to come by, analysts warned.


  1. Brewer636 says

    This may calculate to 4.6 million barrels drop in beer consumption and/or production in the US this past year? Hmmm.