September 14/Norwalk, Conn./PRNewswire -- For the fourth year in a row, the beer industry has continued its declines and lost 1.9% to total 2.8 billion cases. According to the Beverage Information Group's 2011 Beer Handbook, continued declines in the “light” segment continue to contribute to the overall losses in the industry. This segment has seen declines amongst its core brands and is only seeing pockets of growth from newly introduced line extensions.

Despite the struggling economy, growth was seen among the “craft” segment as well as Imports. The higher-priced “craft”segment continued to post solid gains due to consumers' attraction to the interesting flavors craft brewers offer. Imports, which previously have been experiencing declines, gained 0.9% to 362-8 million cases last year, but that is still 11.1% lower than its pre-recessionary levels.

"The Super Premium, Craft/Specialty, and Flavored Malt Beverage category has benefited from the Craft sector's growth," says Eric Schmidt, manager of Information Services for the Beverage Information Group based in Norwalk, Conn. "Consumers are gravitating toward premium products with exciting and new flavors -- something the craft segment has done well in providing."

According to the handbook, the future of the beer industry does not look promising. Rising fuel costs and high unemployment rates among its core consumers are two factors in its downfall. The growth in Super Premium, Craft/Specialty and Flavored Malt Beverage segment is predicted to show positive growth in the next five years; unfortunately, these gains cannot offset the losses in the remaining domestic segments.  Premium, Light, Popular, Ice and the Malt Liquor segments are expected to decline in the short term.

From the September 19, 2011, Prepared Foods' Daily News.