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Beer sales go flat
U.S. shipments shrank last year for the first time in 7 years; low-carb fad, cool weather to blame.
September 20, 2004: 4:54 PM EDT

NEW YORK (CNN/Money) - Whether it's because of low-carb diets, cool summers or a switch to cocktails and wine, the beer market is going flat.

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The beer market shrank 0.3 percent last year to 2.8 billion cases shipped in the United States, marking the first decline in seven years, according to industry research firm Adams Beverage Group.

"Beer consumption clearly took a hit from the focus on low-carb diets," said Tiziana Mohorovic, spokeswoman for Adams Beverage Group, in a statement. "Increased competition from spirits and wine products also took its toll."

A spokeswoman for the National Beer Wholesalers Association confirmed that beer sales have been flat in recent years, but she attributed the softness to cooler summers.

"People typically associate beer with outdoor activities, and with the cooler weather, people just haven't been spending as much time outdoors," the spokeswoman added.

While beer sales stalled, spirit and wine consumption rose amid heavy marketing campaigns and increased availability as states abolish Blue Laws, such as those that restricted alcohol sales on Sunday.

But beer may have a savior in its new lower-carb products. Sales of light beers -- the largest beer segment, with nearly 50 percent of the total market -- rose 3.6 percent in 2003.

More than two-thirds of the gain in the light beer segment came from two low-carb offerings, Anheuser Busch's (BUD: down $1.00 to $50.30, Research, Estimates) Michelob Ultra and Rolling Rock's Rock Green Light, according to Adams.

Meanwhile, microbrews -- fuller flavored beers produced by smaller brewers, which are perhaps the antithesis of light beers -- also showed healthy gains, with a 3.4 percent sales increase, according to Adams.

Import beers fell to their lowest growth rate in more than a decade, the firm reported.  Top of page

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