Head's Up!

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Beer is big bucks. After soft drinks, coffee, and milk, it's our favorite beverage. Americans shelled out $60 billion for 196 million barrels of brew last year, bringing in $29 billion in retail profits; average per capita consumption was 22.2 gallons1. And there's more than beer contributing to those bellies: beer buyers rack up more at the checkout counter than their teetotaling counterparts, in part because they buy more premium-price items: when beer is included, their retail tabs average $33.21-44 percent higher than those of dry shoppers. Consumption is increasing, albeit slowly: 0.7 percent more beer was drunk in 1998 than during the previous year2. One reason is the popularity of light beer, which accounted for one-third of the market in 1990, but is projected to claim half of the beer biz by 20103. Does this mean there will be fewer babes and more biceps in the beer ads of the future? Maybe. Women, who currently account for only 15 percent of total beer consumption4, are partial to low-calorie beer. These brews are being produced at such a fast clip that the industry appears to be obeying an edict from on high: Let there be lite.

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