Anheuser-Busch moving more craft volume into value-priced larger packs

Anheuser-Busch appears to be pushing more volume across its craft beer portfolio this year by trading consumers into larger pack sizes, a MillerCoors analysis of Nielsen and IRI data shows.

The nation’s largest brewer, which snapped up 10 craft brewers over the last decade, is moving more craft volume away from traditional craft packaging sizes (4-packs of 16-ounce cans or 6-packs of 12-ounce bottles or cans) and into larger, value-sized packs, including 12-packs, 15-packs and 18-packs, thereby lowering the overall price per unit, according to Nielsen all-outlet and convenience data through May 25.

In effect, Anheuser-Busch has cut prices to consumers on each brand year-to-date, the data show.

The biggest declines in price per case have come from some of its largest or fastest-growing craft brands. Golden Road, Breckenridge, Blue Point and Goose Island are each selling at a discount greater than $2 per case compared with the prior year, per Nielsen.

For Golden Road, Blue Point and Goose Island, the lower per-case pricing appears to be due in part to changes in mix, whereby each of those brands are offering more larger packs, such as 12-, 15- and 18-packs, at a lower price. For Breckenridge, some of the effect is likely due to a change in Colorado state law that allows grocers to sell full-strength beer, the MillerCoors analysis shows.

Elysian, Devils Backbone and 10 Barrel, meanwhile, have effectively cut prices by at least $1.25 per case, per Nielsen.

Collectively, the company’s acquired craft brands average prices dropped 2.5% to $37.91 per case, according to IRI multi-outlet and convenience data through May 19 cited by Beer Marketer’s Insights (subscription required).

The cuts appear to have helped fuel sales volume, with each brand up for the year. Breckenridge (+54.3%) and Golden Road (+52.1%) lead the way.

(The craft brewers in MillerCoors’ Tenth and Blake portfolio — Terrapin, Revolver, Saint Archer and Hop Valley — average $41.01 per case, down 0.5%, per IRI data cited by Beer Marketer’s Insights.)

AB’s Golden Road, in particular, has gone low — “jaw-droppingly low,” per Beer Marketer’s Insights — with its new Fruit Cart variety 15-packs of cans, which are selling for an average of $26.75 per case. Its Spiked Agua Fresca variety packs, meanwhile, are going for an average of $27.80 per case, Beer Marketer’s Insights reported.

In California, its home market and where it’s getting the vast majority of its volume growth, Golden Road’s pricing is down $3.33 per case compared with last year, according to Nielsen data. In about 40% of the markets in which Golden Road sells 15-packs, those packs are priced lower than Blue Moon.

Anheuser-Busch also appears to be targeting craft lagers for deep discounting, per IRI data cited by Beer Marketer’s Insights.

  • Its 10 Barrel Pub Beer is selling under $21 per case, on average, down $9.60 per case versus last year. That’s helped push volume of the Oregon-based brand up 124% for the year.
  • Blue Point’s flagship Toasted Lager is selling for $31.82 per case, down $4.30 versus last year.
  • Four Peaks Golden Lager is down $4.73 per case, selling at an average of $32.25 year-to-date.
  • And a new Goose Island lager, Natural Villain Garage Style Lager, goes for an average of $22.66 per case.

A spokeswoman for the Brewers Collective, Anheuser-Busch’s craft division, declined to comment.