Steady growth for US breweries in 2019


The US craft brewing industry’s growth rate was again positive last year, growing at 4 per cent according to figures released by the US Brewers Association this week.

In a year that the overall beer market declined by 2 per cent, the craft sector grew its volume share from 13.2 per cent in 2018 to 13.6 per cent in 2019.

According to the figures, the US craft market is worth an estimated at $29.5 billion (AU$46.7 billion), which the BA says represents a 25.2 per cent share of value and 6 per cent growth on the year before.

It says the craft industry provided more than 160,000 jobs, an increase of 7 per cent on 2018.

942 new breweries opened during the year and 294 closed. The US had a reported 8,275 craft breweries including 2,058 microbreweries, 3,011 brewpubs, 2,966 taproom breweries, and 240 regional craft breweries.

“Small and independent brewers continued to serve as job creators, strong economic contributors, and community beacons in 2019, while craft maintained a fairly stable growth rate in 2019 and continued to gain share in the beer market,” said Bart Watson, chief economist at Brewers Association.

However following the pandemic it is uncertain what the state of the US or indeed Australian industry will be in by 2021. The US Brewers Association undertook a member survey to gauge the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on the industry earlier this month.

It found that many brewers considered the crisis an “existential threat” with a number already planning to close, and 60 per cent saying they will be able to sustain their businesses for the next three months in current conditions, but no more.

“Although craft brewers entered 2020 on a solid foundation, the beer landscape is dramatically different today than it was just a few months ago.

“Breweries will be facing new realities due to the pandemic with extended closures, tight cash flow, societal shifts, and other economic variables in play.

“These 2019 figures will allow us to see how much COVID-19 affects small brewer production and jobs,” said Watson.

Australian and US breweries

Comparatively, the Independent Brewers Association has stated that independent breweries account for 5.9 per cent of market share by volume in Australia.

The IBA’s data obtained from the Australian Tax Office indicates that this share grew 1 per cent on the year before.

There has been some dispute over the actual share of independent brewers in terms of sales of volumes, with a report commissioned by the Australian Brewers Association stating that small brewers account for 3.4 per cent of sales volume in the market.

Last year, prior to the acquisition of Carlton and United Breweries by Asahi, CUB’s previous owner AB InBev and Kirin-owned Lion together had a 93.6 per cent share of the Australian market, the research found.

According to the BA’s report, the brewing industry as a whole employs 5,765 full time staff. The major brewers employ 3,375 of those, with the remaining 2,390 are employed by independent breweries.

The IBA has said that this number is in fact closer to 2,700, indicating that the smaller section of the market disproportionately contributes to Australian employment.

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