As beer sales decline, top brewers turn to creative new alternatives

National

Beer consumption has dropped by over 4% in the U.S. in the last year. The drink’s falling popularity has forced some of America’s top brewers into a race to accommodate changing tastes — just in time for one of beer’s biggest days of the year: Super Bowl Sunday.

The decline should not come as a surprise to manufacturers; sales of traditional lagers have been going down for more than five years, CBS News correspondent Janet Shamlian reports.

“Some of the reasons we’re seeing some of the declines within those traditional lagers are consumer trends,” Danelle Kosmal told CBS News at the Dupont Circle Hotel’s Doyle bar in Washington, D.C. Kosmal is vice president at the Nielsen Beverage Alcohol Practice.

“Consumer trends around health and wellness, consumer trends around wanting a different and new experience,” are all reasons for the shift, she said.

Products like craft beers from small brewers have become growing trends, as well as hard seltzers that promise health-conscious consumers fewer carbs and lower calories. In 2019, hard seltzer sales hit $1.5 billion.

Big beer brands are paying attention — the U.S.’ top five brewers are all experimenting with beer alternatives like hard seltzer and even non-alcoholic kombucha in an effort to keep up.

Even local town bars like Miner’s Saloon in Golden, Colorado are seeing younger drinkers reaching for ciders and seltzers these days.

“We see people really experimenting with a lot of those different beers,” said Aimee Valdez, who owns the Saloon. “We’re also seeing an uptick in seltzer business — things like White Claw, whatnot. We’ve brought that onto the menu just because we had people starting to ask for it.”

Beer giant Coors, whose brand is so closely tied to Colorado that they chose to keep their brewery in Golden when they moved headquarters to Chicago, is spending millions to change up production.

“We’re in the early stages of planning out how exactly that will come to life here in Golden. But certainly we’re going to be looking across our network to see how we can adapt and how we make sure that we’re able to make the next canned wine, the next canned spirit and those type of products,” Coors executive Adam Collins said.

Collins explained that expanding beyond beer is a necessity to stay in the game. For them, the expansion includes things beyond seltzers like canned cocktails and an interesting combination called hard coffee.

“From what we saw, it’s really interesting in some of our research, was that people before they were going out at night might look for a coffee, maybe an espresso and a cocktail, right?” he mused. Hard coffee “meets a specific need for consumers. And what we’ve seen so far is it’s doing fantastic.”

For dedicated beer drinkers, there is no cause for alarm. Coors will continue to invest in iconic brands that people know and love like Coors Light and Miller Light, Collins said. What it does mean, however, is that football fans across the country can expect a variety of alcoholic options to fit their tastes this Super Bowl Sunday, from the traditional to the quirky. 

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