Rural Oklahoma markets drive growth of beer sales in 2021

OKLAHOMA CITY — In 2021, the Oklahoma Beer Alliance and its beer distributor members have seen consumers change the brands and amounts they are purchasing, and where they are shopping. While hard seltzers, craft and ULTRA beer brands drove major growth in Q2 of 2021 when compared to Q2 of 2019, so did sales in rural on-premise retailers, such as bars, restaurants and performance venues.

“When looking at a more apples-to-apples year where Oklahomans are in a more normal place than 2020, our beer distributors have seen huge shifts in what consumers are purchasing,” said Lisette Barnes, president of the Oklahoma Beer Alliance. “Take seltzers as an example. In 2019, there were only five seltzer brands available in Oklahoma and sales were about 5,000 cases. Now, there are more than 40 seltzer brands and seltzers are offered in many retailers now compared to 2019, and sales are upwards of 81,000 cases so far.”

Alongside the increase in seltzer options and its role in increased sales in 2021, there has also been an increased interest in low-calorie alcoholic beverages, such as ULTRA brands, Shocktop, Bud Light, and craft beers, including Elysian, Goose Island and Golden Road beers. Specifically, Oklahoma Beer Alliance distributor members have seen a more than 41% increase in ULTRA and other lower-calorie beer sales and more than 7% increase in craft beer sales.

“I attribute these shifts in Oklahomans’ beer purchasing habits in two ways the first is embracing a more active lifestyle and the second is portability,” said Jason Hall, senior general manager of AB One Oklahoma. “All of the brands that we’re seeing an increase of sales in, check all of these boxes. When warmer weather hits, we know our consumers want to get outside and get back to the things they love to do, such as going to the lake or park, hiking, fishing and gathering with family and friends. And they want to be able to easily pack a beer that tastes great, is in a can rather than a glass bottle so it won’t break, and something that will be refreshing as they go about their day.”

In addition to the changes of what Oklahomans are buying, there has also been a shift in where Oklahomans are buying. When comparing the two quarterly sales periods, Oklahoma Beer Alliance distributor members saw an increase in total sales volume by 6.8%. This was due in part to a large increase in on- and off-premise rural sales, which grew by more than 13% and more than 9% respectively. Of note, on-premise sales in metro areas in bars and restaurants decreased by 3.5% compared to Q2 in 2019, and off-premise sales in metro areas grew by 4% in Oklahoma City and 8% in Tulsa.

“In the second quarter of 2021, the rural on-premise market was well ahead of the metro markets and was the driver of our overall growth,” Hall said. “We saw this trend begin in late 2020 and early 2021 as a result of continuing COVID-19 restrictions in certain areas and other locales shifting restrictions.”

Many factors have played a role in the growth of beer sales over the last two years, and Oklahoma Beer Alliance member distributors work diligently with local retailers to ensure they can meet consumer demands — whether they are going to bars and restaurants or heading to grocery, convenience or liquor stores.

“Oklahomans want to try new and popular beer options,” said Lou Moreau, president of A&B Distributors and chairman of the Oklahoma Beer Alliance. “These recent purchasing trends continue to prove the exciting opportunity for on- and off-premise establishments to lean into offering new varieties for consumers across Oklahoma.”


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