U.S. BEER IMPORTS TAKE a TUMBLE
Imported beers appear to have lost some of their luster. With Americans cutting their discretionary spending imported beers, and their higher price tags, have been taking a hit. US beer imports fell 19% in the first two months of the year, one of the steepest declines in years. The beer industry’s overall sales in the US were down about 4% in the first two months of this year compared with the same period in 2OO8. Shipments from Mexico fell 13.5%, while those from the Netherlands dropped 26%, according to the Beer Institute. Those countries are the largest exporters of beer to the US, and the declines partly reflect sluggish sales for Mexican brewer Grupo Modelo SA’s Corona Extra and Heineken NV’s flagship Heineken brand. In addition to economic woes, imports are facing stiffer competition from similarly priced domestic craft beers. Additionally, they appear to be losing sales to mass-marketed brands like Coors Light. Last year, imported beer shipments fell about 3.4%, the first drop since 1991, when an increase in the federal excise tax on beer curbed demand, according to beer marketer’s insights.
Crown Imports LLC, the importer of Grupo Modelo’s brands in the US, said it plans to bolster marketing efforts by increasing advertising in some markets, organizing more drink specials at bars and cutting prices in a few markets to make the beers more competitive with domestic brews. Shipments of Corona, the top-selling import, fell 4.6% in 2OO8, the second consecutive annual decline. Shipments of Heineken, the number two import, fell 5.5% last year. Another contributing factor may be that (as many businesses are doing) some beer distributors are shrinking their inventories in order to protect cash flow.