There’s an unstoppable surge in cans, and there many reasons why brewers, retailers, and drinkers alike are all on board.

A glance at the fridge in your local bottle shop or grocery store reveals a sea of aluminium, and this edition’s episode of number nerdery confirms just what a dramatic shift it has been.

New World have kindly shared their NPD database, listing all the new products ranged across the retail group, and your humble correspondent has classified them by pack format (single or multipack;  bottle or can) and beer style, comparing the last three months of 2020 with the last three months of 2018, and the last three months of 2016.

Sometimes a nice bit of analysis reveals a hitherto hidden truth, and sometimes it just confirms what was already pretty clear:  in this case it’s the latter, and I’m not expecting a Pulitzer for showing that there were a lot of hazies in cans released at the end of last year.  The scale of the change over a couple of years is still fascinating though, and there are a few interesting nuances in there around beer style.  Righto, put the kettle on… it’s data time.

Read more: Wedded to cans for better or worse

The first interesting little factoid is just how many more new products have been released each year.  The raw data goes back to 2014, when 288 new products were recorded over the course of the year, with 39% of these being Craft, and 26% being what New World classify as Premium Craft (basically everything except Mac’s, Monteith’s, and Boundary Rd).  That number grows every year, reaching 813 in 2020, of which 94% are Craft, and 92% Premium Craft.  Or, to look at it from another angle, there were close to 10 times more Premium Craft products ranged in New World last year than there were in 2014.

The next little fact nugget concerns pack formats and shows the unstoppable rise of cans.  In the last three months of 2016, there were 101 new products released, and only 6 of these were in cans (6%).  In the same period in 2018, 69 of the 175 new products were cans, or 39%.  In 2020, 155 of the 187 new products were cans, making up 83% of new product development.

What’s also interesting is what doesn’t change.  The ratio of single units to multipacks has stayed pretty much constant over this time period:  79% in 2016, 76% in 2018, and 79% in 2020.

The mix across beer styles has also seen some fairly big shifts.  The biggest and most obvious has been the rise of the hazy.  Around a quarter of new products (24%) in the last three months of 2020 called themselves hazies, up from 7% in 2018, and 2% in 2016 (early pioneers Party and Bullshit and Perris Sky Juice).  The growth of the hazy has pushed up the percentage of beers that are IPAs and Pale Ales (hazy and non-hazy) from 39% in 2016, to 49% in 2020.

Other growth areas include sours, up from 7% in 2016 and 6% in 2018 to 10% last year, and mixed packs, up from 2% in 2016 to 9% in 2020.  Lagers and pilsners have fallen from 20% of new SKUs in 2016 to 12% in 2020, and dark beers from 15% to 4%.  My “Other Styles” category (anything from wheat beers to Belgian styles to golden ales) has also fallen from 18% to 10%.

Looking at NPD is an imperfect proxy for describing what we’re drinking, or even what’s on the shelves, given that by definition it only tracks what’s new.  But it is a handy snapshot of what brewers are releasing, and what retailers are stocking.  And while clearly confirming the amazing rise of both the can format and the hazy style, it does indicate a slight decrease in diversity of styles.

New World Thorndon

New World Thorndon now has a frodge dedicated to what’s new.

The most interesting part of this analysis for me is the speed with which both cans and hazies have taken a stranglehold on the market.  What will be the big movers in the next few years?  Schwarzbiers in TetraPak?  Answers on a postcard please.