The brewing industry enjoyed a second consecutive year of growth with an estimated 190 million barrels of domestic and imported beer shipped to wholesalers in 1997. This represents an increase in brewer shipments of over 1 million barrels or .6% over the 1996 total. This two-year trend of small growth in a large shipment base brings the industry very close to its 1990 volume level, the industry's peak year.
In addition to the positive news concerning beer shipments, consumer interest continues to grow in a wide range of beers, ales, and other malt beverage products. Over 2000 malt beverage brands are now produced in the United States , six times the number of brands produced a decade ago. U.S. and international brewers continue to produce a tremendous array of beer styles with solid niche markets continuing to develop for industry members of every size.
Consumer demand continues to spur growth in the number of U.S. brewers. The number of domestic brewers in the United States surpassed 1250, nine times the number in business in 1987.
Micro breweries and brewpubs account for this increase, and their presence has helped bolster the industry's long tradition as a dynamic part of the American economy. Smaller brewers have helped sustain the brewing industry's "on-premise" business, particularly in urban centers and tourist destinations. International brands played a major role in industry growth and profitability throughout 1997, with the fourth year of double-digit growth for the import sector since 1992. Five of the top twelve malt beverage suppliers in the United States are now import companies or American affiliates of brewers based in other countries.
Major U.S. brewers continue to develop growing markets abroad through a combination of direct export shipments, licensing agreements, and foreign investment. American brewers now export products to at least 120 nations, and have established business relationships with dozens of their counterparts around the world.
A strong U.S. economy and demographic changes should propel domestic sales toward a period of steady growth if brewers can avoid significant new tax or regulatory measures over the next several years. In some overseas markets, economic uncertainties exist, however, the long-term prospects for global industry growth are very strong. U.S. brewers have earned a national and international reputation for integrity and hard work, which will serve our industry well as we approach the new millennium. International brewers doing business in the United States have been well-received by the public, and are contributing to our industry's positive public image.