Labatt Blue Citra — a hoppy session lager that debuted in cans earlier this year — has become the top new beer brand in upstate New York, according to the Chicago-based research firm IRI.
Citra, one of the first innovations for Labatt USA in years, in January became the first release in a Buffalo-Rochester collaborative process expected to pump a larger variety of such beers into the U.S. market in coming years.
“We’re excited about the positive response from beer drinkers,” said Rob Hertenstein, brand manager for Labatt USA, headquartered at the Labatt House in the Buffalo Cobblestone District. “Labatt Blue Citra has strong retail demand, sell through and repeat purchase rates, which means people like the beer and are going back for more.”
Hertenstein and Ryan Brady led a small team that developed Citra. They expect sales to climb farther this summer because of its clean, crisp taste and finish.
Brady became brewmaster late last year at the Labatt Brew House, a Labatt USA innovation brewery at the company headquarters. He helped devise Citra in his previous job as assistant brewmaster at Genesee Brewing Company in Rochester. Both companies are owned by FIFCO-USA.
Natural Light Naturdays and Yuengling Golden Pilsner ranked second and third behind Citra in new brand sales upstate.
Overall U.S. beer sales reached more than $35 billion last year, according to IRI, which tracks alcoholic beverage sales at off-premise retailers across the country.
Sales of domestic premium brands — which include Bud Light, Budweiser, Miller Lite and Coors Light — fell 4.2%, to about $12.6 billion in 2018, the firm reported, while sales grew among imports, craft beer, domestic super premiums, flavored malt beverages and cider.
Dollar sales of imported beer, the second-largest category, grew 7.4%, to $7 billion, while craft beer sales climbed 2.5%, to more than $4.2 billion, IRI reported.