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More Evidence of Tuff Start to Apr: Steeper Mainstream Declines, Less High End Growth Bring Vol Down in Scans

More evidence of a tuff start to April: total beer sales up just 1% and volume down 1.6% for 4 wks thru Apr 17 in IRI multi-outlet + convenience data. Steeper premium and subpremium declines weighed down category overall and Easter timing took a toll, no doubt. Indeed, premium $$ down 3%, volume down 4% during period, compared to $$ flat and volume down 1% YTD. What’s more, each of the top-4 mega brands declined. Bud Light (-4%) and Bud (-5%) declines each a few points steeper and both Miller Lite and Coors Light down 1% tho still up 1% YTD. Similarly, total subpremium (-3% on both vol and $$) trends off a couple pts for 4 wks compared to YTD. AB’s Natty Light and Busch had been trending better to this point, but for 4 wks Natty Light $$ down 4%, Natty Ice down 5%, Busch Light and Busch each down 2%. MC’s Miller High Life (-7%) and Keystone Light (-6%) continue to decline at steeper pace than total sub-segment. Tho AB’s Bud Ice still up 5% for 4 wks and 8% YTD.

Meanwhile, each high-end segment slowed for 4 wks too. Only FMB $$ up double-digits for period, +11%. And that’s compared to +18% YTD. Imports and craft both slowed a few points, $$ up 7% and 8% respectively. Superpremium slowed to +4% and Cider down steeper 10% for 4 wks. Of course, many of the same top growth brands within these high-end segments kept up strong paces. Mich Ultra and Modelo Especial each still up 20%+; Not Your Father’s Root Beer still up nearly 1000%; and new AB and MC alc soda entrants are among top share gainers. Lagunitas IPA (+20%) and Little Sumpin’ Sumpin’ (+42%) still gaining largest share of total beer sales among craft brands. But other large high-end brands within each of these categories are draggin’ growth too. Four of top-5 craft cos down for 4 wks including Sam Adams (top-4 brands -17%), Sierra -4%, New Belgium -3% and Gambrinus -9%. Total Heineken USA down 2% for 4 wks. Angry Orchard Crisp Apple down 10%. Rita family still down 18% including new splash launches and Redd’s franchise is actually down 6% for 4 wks. Stay tuned.

 

Brito Hints AB InBev Will Stick With Beer Buys; Sez Consumers Trending Toward Low-/No-Alc Beers

Tho closing date for ABI-SAB still not in clear sight, speculation already abounds about AB InBev’s next target, especially in wake of announced big option plan if ABI’s revs reach $100 bil, a big stretch without M&A. And while most of that speculation includes Coke and/or other soft drink firms as possible targets, ceo Brito reminded at ABI annual mtg that “we’ve always done it within beer. We don’t believe in going too much outside beer. That makes the likelihood of success in integration higher.” (Quotes from Reuters report today.) Gotta note tho that ABI is already a big Pepsi bottler. Yet it’s buying SABMiller, which is already a big Coke bottler. So hard to say Brito’s scotching any future soda tie-ups. Brito also pointed to growth potential of low- and no-alcohol beers. ABI has goal of 20 share of its global revs in such products by 2025, which would be more than a doubling of their current share. “There are a lot of consumer trends going in that direction,” Brito said, adding: “And the margins are very good because you don’t have the excise tax because it’s non-alcohol. You charge sometimes the same price as beer or higher, depending on how you position the product.” Meanwhile, ABI-SAB “likely to be approved” by Australian antitrust authorities, Seeking Alpha reports today.