BEER GETS 1.1% GAIN IN MARCH SUPERS

That’s according to IRI scans, which don’t forget account for about 20% of beer volumes and does not include Wal-Mart. That gain, which includes the four weeks up to March 23rd, is more than we anticipated considering the transfer of Easter volume into April this year.

A-B LEADS THE PACK. A-B volumes up 3.2% with pricing up 2.6%. Bud Light carried the load, up 8.4%, while Budweiser was down -2.5%. That Bud Light gain is on top of a 9.2% gain last March. Any way you cut it, Bud Light is still hot and has good momentum going into the summer selling season.

MILLER VOLUME DOWN -3.8%. MBCo continues to struggle, at least in supermarkets. Lite lost some share, was up only 0.5%, while MGD continues to lag, down big -10.1%. Miller’s overall pricing was up 2.2%. What’s wrong with Big Blue? Lots of word-of-mouth that MBCo not getting the level of ads, in-store specials, and display bookings that it used to. It’s not a coincidence that A-B was Beverage Industry Magazine’s company of the year (a mag read by retail beer cat mgrs). A-B has been aggressive in achieving category captain status with many chains that allow it. Also, anecdotally at least, maybe Catfight turning off housewives, which account for over half of all supermarket beer sales.

COORS UP 1.5%. Lead by Coors Light, which gained 2.2%. Coors Banquet down -4.5%. Despite assurances by Leo & Co. to analysts about holding the line on pricing, Coors’ pricing not that great, only up a paltry 0.8%. Beer Business Daily is getting some rumblings of price promotions of suits and 12pk glass in the Carolinas and Virginia (even hearing about an 18 pack of 16 ounce cans (!), looking for a $10.99 PTC in Virginia . Yikes. Hope retailers don’t break them up to put in singles bins). Looks like Coors wants to get the jump this summer on booking chain store ads. Wants to run 2 weeks each in May, June, July. Some distributors balking, worried about margin erosion, some going with the flow and hoping for that lift. As of now, A-B and Miller not following.

IMPORTS STILL STRONG. Corona up only 0.5%, but don’t forget that pricing is up 3.7% and it is cycling a strong 5.4% performance last year. Heineken is up steady as a rock, plus 8% with pricing up 2.1%. Unfortunately, distribs saying don’t look for a price increase on Mean Green this year as Heineken hopes to wait out the soft economy. Guinness Stout up 20% while pricing down -5.4%. Bass up 6.3% while Smirnoff Ice still struggling, down -29.8%. Sure looks like malternatives are having a tough time in supermarkets. While several distribs we surveyed were bullish on the FMB segment, the larger distributors acknowledged that sales were still very soft.

APRIL SHOWERS BRING POOR BEER SALES. Mother nature won’t give us a break. Freak snow storms in NYC and the eastern coast, and a big 100 year snow storm in the Rockies (shutting down Denver for two days), are wreaking havoc on April beer sales in those important areas so far, according to distributor sources. Upper Midwest also getting hammered with freezing temperatures. In warmer climes, the big news of US bunker busters killing Saddam and his lunatic sons keeping people glued to TVs. But if it shortens the war and helps get this economy moving again, I’ll accept the short-term hit to beer sales and I bet you will too.MTD Sell Day: 7 Sell Days This Month: 22 Sell Days This Month Last Year: 22 YTD Over/Under Sell Days: 0 This Month Ends on a: Wed. Last Year This Month Ended on a: Tue.