The U.S. beer industry achieved volume consumption growth of 0.7% in 2021 to 2.85 billion 2.25-gallon cases, according to the 2022 Beer Handbook.
This positive shift can be primarily attributed to the growth within the flavored malt beverages, imports and craft categories, as all other beer segments posted losses.
Although the hard seltzers sub-segment within FMBs experienced a significant deceleration versus the meteoric rise of the past few years, the overall category did have brands that continued to drive growth.
During the past 10 years, volume consumption within the beer industry has declined. The beer category remains in a precarious position. Perhaps more so than any other category, it has been changed by Covid-19. Big brands have been shrinking for years. Before the pandemic, craft enjoyed rapid growth, fueled by consumer experimentation and reliant on taprooms and the on-premise.
Then Covid closed the on-premise dealing a blow to craft, and other beer segments as well, that it’s still trying to recover from. Consumer preferences have changed and have so far not reverted to pre-Covid.
Total domestic beer ended 2021 at 2.32 billion 2.25-gallon cases, which accounted for an 81.3% share of the overall category, a decrease from 2020. Growth levels within FMBs and craft were not able to offset the decline of other domestic beer categories.
Craft beer was on the verge of decline prior to the pandemic. Since 2014, the category was steadily growing, but the rate of growth was declining year after year. The pandemic accelerated this expected contraction period. Craft beer bounced back in 2021 with 4.5% growth, which puts the category near 2018 levels of consumption and the third-largest beer category.
The mature beer industry has remained relatively flat since 2014. However, the recent popularity of malt beverages, specifically hard seltzers, continues to be a driver of new growth. The FMB/Hard Seltzer category was up 11.3% in 2021 and continues to take market share from other categories of beer. In 2021, the segment took more market share than any other category at +1.2% and now controls 12.0% of the total beer category.
Imported beers experienced a 6.3% increase in growth, and were the second fastest-growing beer category of 2021 and one of two beer categories to attain volume growth over 5%. That performance was good for an 18.7% market share of the overall beer market in 2021 and is a gain of 1-share point versus 2020, keeping imports in second place behind market leader light beer.