By the Numbers: The Beer-Cave Evolution (Infographic)

Craft, cider and imports deliver strong growth in 2014

Consumers’ cravings for unique flavors and higher-end products are reflected across today’s c-stores—the cold vault included.

The beer category saw a bit of an uptick in convenience stores last year, with 3.1% growth in dollar sales and 0.7% growth in case sales, according to IRI. That’s compared to 2013, when sales were up 1.5% and case sales down 1.5%.

Like 2013, a few smaller segments experienced strong growth and buoyed the greater category. Craft beer, cider and imports all clocked in with strong sales growth, while domestic subpremium—the second-largest segment with 18.3% sales share—dropped 3.8% in case sales from the year prior. The category’s biggest segment, domestic premium was down 0.7% in case sales.

What brands are leading craft beer’s continued climb? The Samuel Adams brand tops the category in terms of dollar and unit sales, and still saw strong growth last year (22.4% growth in dollar sales, 19.8% growth in unit sales). Sierra Nevada, Shiner, New Belgium and Lagunitas round out the top five, while Sweetwater, Bells and Unita all saw big sales gains in 2014.

On the import side, Corona Extra maintains the No. 1 spot in terms of c-store sales, but No. 2 Modelo Especial had a strong year with 22.2% case sales growth, compared to 8.5% for Corona Extra. Heineken, Dos Equis XX Lager Especial and Tecate round out the import top five.

The cider segment is led by the Angry Orchard Brand family, which ended the year with $66.0 million in c-store sales. Interestingly, even though Angry Orchard saw 115.3% dollar sales growth and 111.3% case sales growth in 2014, it actually lost share to newcomers such as Johnny Cider, Smith and Forge and Citizen Cider.

The domestic superpremium segment also fared well in 2014, with 11.4% growth in c-store dollar sales and 8.9% growth in case sales. Michelob Ultra Light, the top-selling product in the segment, experienced 13.3% dollar growth and 11.0% volume growth. The No. 2 brand, Bud Light Platinum Lager dropped 11.5% in dollar sales and 13.5% in case sales. The segment was also helped by a number of strong young brands, including Redds Apple and Strawberry Ales, Shock Top Honeycrisp Apple Wheat and Bud Light Chelada Extra Lime.