Beverage Dynamics

Beverage Dynamics Jan-Feb 2016

Beverage Dynamics is the largest national business magazine devoted exclusively to the needs of off-premise beverage alcohol retailers, from single liquor stores to big box chains, through coverage of the latest trends in wine, beer and spirits.

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Page 60 of 71 January/February 2016• Beverage Dynamics 61 ALES FROM ABROAD Imported beer continues to rise, led by Mexican brands. BY JULIE JOHNSON IMPORTED BEERS have long carried a mark of sophistication. They fi red the imagination of American beer lovers years before home- brewing became legal and decades before the craft beer movement emerged. In fact, im- ports paved the way for the future popularity of both. In the dull beer years of the last century, the import shelves at retail stores offered novel fl avors to those in the know. The selections were limited, and the stock sometimes far from fresh, but at a time when U.S. brewing was at its most homogeneous, the imported brands introduced drinkers to the great brewing tra- ditions beyond our shores. Today, the sheer number of imported brands, coming in a dizzying range of styles, mirrors the diversity of domestically produced beers. But, like American brands, the import market is dominated by a relatively small number of beers that are widely available and well-supported by advertising and promotions. And, like the leading American brands, most imports are of one general style—the modern pale lager. Yet imports as a category are enjoying healthy growth—5.4% in volume growth last year—whereas the similarly styled Amer- ican majors are stalled or losing share (fi gures from the Beverage Information Group). Clearly, the import identity itself still has some cachet. After all, analysts still talk about the phenom- enon of consumers "trading up." Bridget Lasda, VP National Accounts at Heineken USA, explains why imports can fi ll that desire. "Consumers today, specifi cally Mil- lennials, want the best. They have a strong appre- ciation for higher quality products that elevate their experiences and are willing to spend more on brands that complement their lifestyle," she says. "We expect import share to continue to improve as more Millennial and multicultural consumers reach legal drinking age. These consumers are more likely to equate cost with quality and shop the upscale import segment where quality, variety and image play a key role." SOUTHERN SUCCESS Imports as a whole appear robust, but one segment leads the rest. "The story of imports has been the story of Mexican beer for the past several years—they're really driving the bus, so to speak, in that segment," says Dan Wandel, Principal, Bever- age Alcohol Client Insights with IRI. "For the last fi ve years,

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