NEW YORK — Convenience-store traffic, in general, and beverage sales, specifically, continued to benefit from lower gasoline prices and the improving economy, with the biggest winners being Red Bull and craft beers, according to the latest Beverage Buzz survey of c-store retailers.
The survey by Wells Fargo Securities shows nonalcoholic beverage sales grew +5.9% year over year, while alcoholic beverage sales growth slowed from the first quarter to +4.1% growth. “Non-alcoholic beverage growth was driven by ongoing strength in energy (led by Red Bull),” wrote analyst Bonnie Herzog, also calling out healthy growth for bottled water, enhanced waters, sports drinks, iced teas and craft beers.
“Craft and import [beers] continue to drive the bulk of growth” in the alcohol category, which is expected to see sales growth up 4.1% during the second quarter.
Craft beers gained the most shelf space–up nearly 15% year over year–in convenience stores, according to the survey (see chart below), while energy drinks gained about 7% in shelf space. Surprisingly, carbonated-soft-drink shelf space grew about 2.5% despite facing sales challenges over recent months. “Our retailers generally believe that [Coca-Cola Co.’s] Share a Coke [promotion] has led to growth in CSDs,” Herzog wrote.
Energy-drink sales, meanwhile, missed double-digit growth–projected at 9.1%–largely on slower growth in Monster Energy.
“Based on our survey, we estimate Monster’s c-store sales were up 8% in Q2 2015, a deceleration from last quarter,” Herzog wrote. “It appears that distribution issues weighed on results, as one retailer reported that sales ‘should have been up double digit [but were weighed down by] out of stock issues with the Coke change over.’ Another retailer reported ‘Monster sales were trending up double digit in Q1; however, due to service issues, we were negative in April and up only 5% in Q2.’ “
Instead, Red Bull continued to take share from Monster, outperforming Coca-Cola’s new energy-drink partner. As Monster/Coca-Cola works out their distribution issues, however, Monster Energy is expected to see a return to previous double-digit growth.
“Retailers project the energy category will grow 10% for 2015, with Red Bull’s 9% growth outperforming Monster’s projected 8% growth,” Herzog wrote. “Overall, we continue to expect Monster’s second half results should improve.”
About the beverage category overall, Herzog wrote: “Improved weather and lower gas prices have driven solid growth in foot traffic and contributed to strong in-store sales for both c-stores and beverage manufacturers.”