Imported Beers Capitalize on Sales Trends


In the U.S. beer universe, imports are thriving as domestic premium and domestic subpremium brews continue to falter.

The imported beer segment finds itself in the catbird seat (along with domestic superpremiums and crafts) at the convenience-store level. Total U.S. c-store dollar sales for full-year 2018 grew 10.4% to $3.68 billion, while case sales grew 7.8%, according to Chicago-based IRI.

Meanwhile, the entire consolidated domestic beer market dipped 1.6% in dollar sales to $13.9 billion, propped up primarily by the popularity of domestic superpremiums, which grew dollars 14.2%.

Beverage Information Group’s 2018 Beer Handbook, released last October and based on 2017 sales figures and case activity, pointed out that imports from Mexico “continue to thrive as consumers see these brands as a step up in flavor and quality from macro U.S. lagers, while also representing a product that’s appealingly authentic."

The craft beer segment in c-stores grew 3.7% in dollar sales and 2.6% in case sales in 2018, according to IRI. Beverage Information Group’s handbook noted that “oversaturation of some local/regional markets has hurt craft beer. Another factor impacting craft beer: U.S. consumers have never been more experimental or less brand-loyal.”

Read on for recent activity in the imported beer segment.

Photograph: Shutterstock

1. Modelo Chelada

modelo constellation

Modelo Chelada Tamarindo Picante from Constellation Brands is an authentic Mexican cerveza mixed with tomato, salt and lime, along with tamarind and chipotle peppers for a sweet and spicy taste. In Mexico, a sweet and spicy combination of flavors is prevalent in culinary tradition—especially when it comes to crafting a michelada, the brewer says. Spicy tamarind straws are often added to micheladas for an extra boost of flavor. The sweet rush of tamarind mixed with the spicy kick of chile peppers creates a unique combination that’s authentic to traditional micheladas in Mexico.

Photograph courtesy of Constellation Brands

2. Dos Equis

heineken dos equis mexican pale ale

Dos Equis debuted Mexican Pale Ale in January. With unique citrus hops and a hint of spicy heat, the pale ale with a Mexican twist is a sessionable beer available in 12-packs of bottles and cans and six-packs of bottles. With Mexican imports contributing 93% of total import category growth, the company says Dos Equis aims to tap into a sizeable volume opportunity with the new Mexican Pale Ale: consumers who drink both mainstream and craft beers and who seek easy-to-drink craft varieties made by reputable brands they know and trust.

Photograph courtesy of Heineken USA

3. Guinness

guinness beer

Last fall, Irish import Guinness partnered with fellow Diageo brand Bulleit to develop the first Guinness barrel-aged beer brewed from its Baltimore brewery. Featuring full-bodied notes of bittersweet chocolate and aged fruits, Guinness Stout Aged in Bulleit Bourbon Barrels has an ABV of 10%. The beer is available in four-packs of 11.2-ounce bottles. The beer spent eight months aging in Bulleit Bourbon barrels to add an oaky richness and complexity, the brewer says.

Photograph courtesy of Diageo

4. Tecate


Specifically created for the convenience-store channel, Tecate Titanium is a 7.5% ABV brew packaged in 24-ounce cans that features a distinct aroma and flavor, the result of a prolonged brewing process. Imported by Heineken USA, Tecate Titanium was introduced to capitalize on the growth of high-ABV beers and specifically targets Hispanic c-store shoppers, the company says.

Photograph courtesy of Heineken USA

5. Newcastle


U.K. brew Newcastle Brown Ale has been relaunched by Lagunitas Brewing Co. The new liquid is brewed with American centennial and chinook hops and fermented using Lagunitas’ English house ale yeast. The medium-colored brown ale is smooth, crisp, slightly roasty and complete with a hoppy twist, the company says. “We are not known for malty beers,” said Jeremy Marshall, Lagunitas brew master. “We are really honored and excited to reimagine the new Newcastle Brown Ale using our malts, hops and yeast for a silky-smooth flavorful experience.” Newcastle Brown Ale is being produced at Lagunitas’ breweries in Petaluma, Calif., and Chicago. The brand will continue to be marketed by Heineken USA and distributed through its network.

Photograph courtesy of Heineken USA

6. Sol

miller coors sol chelada

Mexicao import Sol is bringing an iconic Mexican flavor to a new market with the U.S. introduction of Sol Chelada, a ready-to-drink mix combining Sol beer with tomato, lime, spices and other natural flavors. Imported by MillerCoors, Sol Chelada has an ABV of 3.5% and comes in 24-ounce single cans.

Photograph courtesy of MillerCoors