Volumes Slowing, Pricing Up

FILED AUGUST 17, 2012

Dear Client:

Beer volumes continue to slow in Nielsen all-channel scans, but are still in positive territory at least. And pricing/mix remains robust. For the four weeks ending August 4, beer volumes were flat, with dollar sales up 2.7%, reports UBS citing Nielsen. That 2.7% number keeps popping up: it's the price/mix increase for the latest four weeks, twelve weeks, and 52 weeks. Beer industry pricing and trading up have remained pretty darned consistent. Volumes, however, have gone from being up 1.2% for the 52 weeks to up 0.8% for the 12 weeks and now flat for the month. That's not the right direction . We should see a bump in September volumes though as the October 1 price increase looms.

So you'll see that volumes are weaker in the latest four week data, but that's not the real story. The real story is that the percentage of beer sold under promotion for the latest four weeks has decreased by two percentage points compared to the same four weeks a year ago. So....

A-B volumes were down 1.3%, with Bud Light down 1.8%, Bud down 6.6%, Natty Light down 8.6%, partially offset by Mich Ultra 2.2%, Stella up 23%, and Platinum and Lime-A-Rita adding to sales. Note that Bud Light Lime is down 11.1%. Price story: 43% sold on promo a year ago, compared to 41% today.

MillerCoors is down 0.8% with Coors Light up a big 4.1% and Coors Banquet up 9.4%. Miller Lite down 0.3% (an improvement) and High Life and Keystone Light down 8%. Blue Moon has slowed, up only 2.6% (compared to being up 9% for the 52 weeks). Price story: 43% sold on promo a year ago, compared to 44% today. It appears MillerCoors was a bit more promotional.

Heineken USA is performing much better with volumes up 1.2%. Brand Heineken is down 2.6% and Tecate is down 6.4%, offset by Dos Equis up 15% and Newcastle Brown Ale up 5.3%. Price story: 47% sold on promo a year ago, compared to 42% today.

Crown Imports is up 0.8% for the four weeks, with Corona down 4.7% offset by Modelo Especial up 10.2%. Price story: 48% sold on promo a year ago, compared to 44% today. So Crown much less promotional than last year.

PRICING A'GOING UP IN MANY PARTS OF THE COUNTRY

Truth Squaders around the country reporting into the BBD mothership about A-B-lead price increases slated for October 1. The prices are all over the board, but they are all fairly hefty. In some markets, like Florida and Norcal, they are not so much narrowing the gap between premium and sub-premium on frontline. In other markets, like the Midwest where they have more share, they are indeed continuing with narrowing the gap. But what we're hearing is that they are reducing price promotions on premiums across the board.

In big Florida market premiums are going up 70 cents on 24/12s, up 40 cents on 18 packs, while Busch 24/12s going up 50 cents. Crown taking Corona and Modelo pricing up 85 cents a case there. That's a first in some time.

In the Midwest, A-B's pricing is all over the map, although it appears A-B is repositioning Rolling Rock to Pabst pricing in several markets. In one Midwest market premium 24/12oz packages going up 75 cents a case, while 24oz cans going up $1:10 a case. Busch 30 packs going up 85 cents a case and Natty 30s going up 90 cents. Busch suits going up 75 cents. But they're holding on imports and Goose Island. Mich Ultra going up 80 cents a case on package and $5 a half barrel on kegs. But prices vary even within states among distributors, as A-B apparently is seeking to standardize pricing more across regions and states. Another Midwest market has A-B premium and sub-premium 24/12's both going up a big 80 cents a case.

In NorCal, where 18 packs and 24oz cans are huge, there is no premium price increase, but rather a reduction of the post-off. Euro-brands are taking some pricing and Crown is still mulling their options there.

In New Mexico sub-premium 30 packs going up 75 cents; and 18 packs up 45 cents (sub and premium). Sub-premium 24 packs going up a big 90 cents. Corona and Heineken going up 70 cents on most everything.

Boston Beer is expected to take an increase in much of the country and other crafts are waiting and watching to see what they do. Stand by for that.

So to sum up: A-B taking beer pricing up anywhere from $0 to 90 cents a case for leading packages. While they are narrowing the premium/sub-premium gap in some markets, in others they're punting. Draft going up $5 in several markets.

What are you seeing in your market? Hit the Truth Squad super secret hotline: http://www.beernet.com/hotline.php

GOLDEN ROAD BREWERY HIRES TOP A-B EXEC AS GM AND COO

Up and coming Los Angeles craft brewer Golden Road Brewery has landed top Anheuser-Busch ops exec Paul Burgis as their new GM, running all of their brewing operations, financial stuff, packaging, capex, etc., which frees up president and co-founder Meg Gill to focus on marketing and distribution. Meg told BBD that getting Paul is a major coup for the brewery. He is the former Area Manager for A-B's Van Nuys plant and has his MBA from the University of California Anderson School of Management. "I really didn't know what a GM of a brewery was," Meg tells BBD. "We didn't know we needed one until we met him..... He has a unique skill set that we felt we really needed to take the brewery to the next level and grow.... He's an LA boy, so we had the hometown advantage to keep him in town."

FOWLER GROUP GETS APPROVAL FOR PADRES

A group headed by distributor Ron Fowler has won approval from Major League Baseball to buy the San Diego Padres, the team said on Thursday. Fowler's group, which includes former Los Angeles Dodgers owner Peter O'Malley and golfer Phil Mickelson, will pay $800 million to owner John Moores and other partners, says Reuters. Ron is the "control person" for the Padres and will represent the team at all league meetings. As much as $200 million of the sale price is the team's 20-percent stake in Fox Sports San Diego, a cable channel that pays the club annual fees under a $1.2 billion, 20-year television agreement with Fox Sports.

Until tomorrow, Harry

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