What’s Happening with Twelve Packs?

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I was talking with a large retailer recently and they mentioned that one of the most frequent questions they are getting from brewers right now is, “what are you planning for 12-packs going forward?” While I can’t know what retailers are planning for spring resets, I thought I’d do a quick mini-post with three graphs on how 12-packs have performed so brewers can at least see the data. Because of the odd comparables COVID-19 has created, I’m doing this in share numbers, which are going to be more helpful for thinking about things like shelf space allocation at retail.

Here’s a graph showing how COVID-19 boosted 12-pack volume within craft (the four weeks ending on March 22, 2020 gets to be its own dot since it straddles the time periods). Unless otherwise noted, all data is IRI Group, total U.S., multi-outlet plus convenience plus liquor for Brewers Association (BA) craft.

From the time COVID-19 hit, average 12-pack share has been 0.6 share points higher. That’s not a ton of share shift, but in a world where 70% of craft is packaged (educated guess on period since COVID-19), that’s about 100,000 new barrels into 12-packs.

You might suspect from the graph above that this effect is waning over time, but some of that is seasonality. To control for that, here’s the share shift trend versus 2019 since COVID-19.

So, if we take out the first couple of months of the pandemic – the average line starts in June – the share shift versus 2019 is pretty stable and has persisted through this summer at pretty much the same average I note above.

The final graph shows a comparison of multi-outlet and convenience (MULO+C) 12-pack share versus liquor stores.

Liquor is the smaller channel, so MULO+C is driving more of the overall shift), but it’s interesting to see that a gap has widened between the channels in 12-pack share. MULO+C has seen 12-pack share rise 0.5 share points, whereas liquor has seen it rise 1.3 share points (or putting it together, the average gap has risen 0.8 share points and is still rising). I don’t have a great explanation for this, but it’s worth noting that off-premise channels differ and that the durability of any shift to 12-packs may vary by sub-channel.