Given Easter timing, no surprise that scans actually softened in most recent period, down nearly 3% for 4 wks thru Apr 1 in Nielsen all-outlet scans. For Q1, volume -1.2%, $$ sales eked out just 0.1% gain. AB down 4.5% in Mar, 2.5% for the qtr. MC down 3.8% in Mar, also -2.5% for the qtr. Constellation still up 8.6% in Mar, almost 12% for 3 mos. Only other gainers in Q1: Mike’s +13% and Diageo Beer Co +2.3% riding good St Pat’s numbers. Premium biz down near 4% yr-to-date while economy off just 1%. Above premium slowed to 2.4% gain, but still picked up 1.1 share of volume, 1.4 share of $$. But that’s all imports and Mich Ultra as craft volume down 0.6% for the qtr and share flat. Ugly short-term numbers: Bud Light and Bud each off at least 7% in Mar, -4.6%, -6.2% respectively yr-to-date. Less ugly, but not pretty: Coors Light and Lite each took over 3% hits in Mar, down 1.8%, 1.4% respectively in Q1. Still lookin’ good, Q1 gains for: Michelob Ultra (+20.2%), Corona (+6.6%), Modelo Especial (+17.5%), Heineken (+2.5%), Stella Artois (+13%).
Mar shipments #s not available yet, but recall Jan-Feb -2.4%. Meanwhile, beer purchasers’ index (BPI) prepared by NBWA economist Lester Jones, a measure of distrib orders, significantly lower in Mar 2017 (49.4) than same time last yr (66.3). While Mar index suggests again “slower beer shipments in the first quarter,” Lester points to modest silver linings. Mar index “a nice increase” vs Feb 2017’s 43.8. Plus, index coming so close to 50 “indicates a steady state for beer orders as we head into spring.” Yet, separate index for “at risk inventory” bumped up 4 pts to 58 in Mar from Feb. “As inventories are depleted in Q2,” Lester wrote, “the industry should see lower ‘at risk’ index readings.” Imports and crafts were only segments where Mar BPI over 50 (which suggests growing segment), at 63.3 and 62.4 respectively. But those down from 72.4 and 81.6 last Mar. Below premium index rose from 36.5 to 38.3 and was higher than premium regular (29.6), just a few pts below premium light (42), which was down 5 pts. FMB index went from above 50 to below, cider index sunk too.