How the Craft Boom Has Impacted Alcohol Industry Sales

Craft brands have captured a large share of consumer and media attention during the past five years, but how has the rise of craft beers and spirits impacted overall industry sales? Are these startups taking share from legacy brands — or adding to overall consumption?

To find out, we looked at sales of the top ten brands of beer and spirits to see whether their growth (or lack of growth) has been impacted by rising craft sales.

In the case of beer, the overall category is declining even as craft sales rise. Craft brands and mainstream brands are on opposite trajectories. Increasing craft sales may be the cause of declining sales for top-ten brands.

Spirits is a different story, since the category has continued to grow and there are a handful of brands in the top ten driving much of that growth (Titos, New Amsterdam and Fireball). Craft spirits command a smaller share, and their growth doesnt correlate directly with any declines.

All data and charts from the Beverage Information and Insights Group.

A Deeper Dive

The beer market is currently facing its fifth consecutive year of overall volume losses. Light beers dominate the category with 43.7% of volume, but their sales are consistently dwindling. Total case sales of light beer were down 3.1% in 2017, and Bud Light has averaged 3.2% annual losses over the past five years. The popular beer category has also shrunk over that time – its been steadily declining since 1988, except for growth in 2008 and 2009 during the recession.

Sales of craft beer, however, are characterized by consistent growth. After the segments rapid rise in 2012 and 2013 of more than 20%, growth has continued at a slower rate. It was 4.9% in 2017. Currently, craft beers share of the category is just over 11%.


The distilled spirits category achieved another consecutive year of volume growth in 2017. This was led by increased consumer interest in high-end and super-premium products across various spirit segments. We project that the category will continue to grow as experiential events, tastings and brand ambassador programs attract new and loyal consumers wanting to enhance their entertainment occasions.

Sales of craft spirits have doubled in the past five years, but still only represent a 2.8% category share. As a whole, craft is still smaller than Smirnoff or Bacardi, and only slightly larger than Crown Royal (the number-three brand by volume).

Paul Soja is a marketing associate for the Beverage Information and Insights Group. To access additional data and analysis around the beverage alcohol industry, visit


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