Trouble With the Cans: BA’s Midyear Economic Report Shows Gap between On- and Off-Premise Sales

Image courtesy of the Brewers Association.

The latest findings from Brewers Association Chief Economist Bart Watson suggest that draught and taproom sales are on the road to recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic while packaged sales have tailed off.

The overall retail census data overall for restaurants and drinking places shows an inflation-adjusted 15% increase in sales from last year. Reservation data from OpenTable also suggests that on-premise activity is nearly back to pre-coronavirus levels, with total reservations up 24.3% from 2021 and just 6.2% below 2019. Watson cautions that while the OpenTable and retail census data is a strong indicator of on-premise performance for craft beer, “but draught sales won’t track perfectly with either of these numbers due to changes in restaurant composition and consumer buying patterns.” The Brewers Association hopes to get a more accurate picture from their midyear survey.

Watson’s optimism for bar and restaurant sales does not extend to cans or bottles. Scan data gathered from liquor and grocery stores shows a 6.5% decline in sales from last year. This is not a surprising number as consumers are going out more and drinking less at home. In comparison to 2019 data, off-premise craft sales have only increased by 0.1%. This stagnant number suggests that at-home craft beer consumption is no longer growing, making it tougher for craft breweries to justify canning, bottling, and distributing their products beyond kegs.

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