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Craft Beer Increasingly Stealing Shelf Space At Major Retail Chains And C-Stores

October 8, 2013

With double-digit sales gains and an expanding consumer base, craft brews are popping up everywhere, including trade channels that previously focused on mainstream beers. Supermarkets, big-box chains and convenience stores are all devoting increased space and attention to the category.

Midwest grocery chain Giant Eagle, which sells beer in 160 of its stores in Ohio, West Virginia and Pennsylvania, is one such mega-retailer responding to rising customer interest in craft brews. “While the majority of our beer sales still come from national brands, craft beer’s share is now double what it was five years ago,” notes Olivier Kielwasser, Giant Eagle’s senior director of beer, wine and spirits. A typical Giant Eagle unit stocks 300 craft brews, with the largest store offering up to 600 SKUs.

St. Louis-based supermarket chain Schnuck’s is also expanding in the segment. “Compared to five years ago, we’ve more than doubled our craft beer volume, and category share has increased dramatically,” says Chris Kline, Schnuck’s merchandising and analytics manager. With 100 stores selling beer across Missouri, Illinois and Indiana, Schnuck’s plans to train as many as 70 team members as certified beer servers this year, similar to the chain’s staffing of roughly 50 in-store certified wine specialists. Schnuck’s offers between a dozen and 200-plus craft SKUs depending on local demand, and one location sold more than 600 craft SKUs in a recent 52-week period.

Big-box retailer Costco is also exploring new ways to increase its craft participation, currently stocking up to 20 different large-format beers ranging from $5 to $23 a bottle. “As the craft trend continues its upswing, we’re experimenting with different ways to merchandise craft beers in the limited space that we’ve devoted to beverage alcohol,” says Costco’s assistant general merchandise manager Annette Alvarez-Peters.

While not as developed as grocery stores, the convenience channel is likewise making inroads with craft beer. Des Moines, Iowa-based Kum & Go, which operates 400 stores in 11 states, typically offers between 10 and 30 craft brews ($7.99 to $10.99 a six-pack). Richard Ginther, the chain’s category manager for packaged beverages, says craft has about an 8% share of Kum & Go’s beer sales, and he expects it to grow at “strong double-digits” over the next half-decade.

Some craft suppliers view the convenience segment as particularly fertile ground for expansion. “C-stores are hungry to partner with craft brewers. The shifting trends in beer haven’t been good to c-stores,” says Sierra Nevada director of sales and marketing Joe Whitney, noting that the grocery and convenience channels have posted the biggest gains in craft beer sales over the last five years.

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