From American lagers to Belgian ales to limited-release seasonals, a dizzying number of new brews regularly hits store shelves. So it’s easy to see why beer lovers may have a hard time choosing which six-pack is right for them.
Jungle Jim’s, Trader Joe’s , Piggly Wiggly, Best Yet Market and an increasing number of other food retailers have addressed the situation by offering individually priced and mix-and-match assortments.
See how retailers are driving beer sales with mix-and-match assortments and beer on tap. Click here  to view the gallery.
So-called “pick six” packs of beer accounted for the third largest unit case share increase in the craft segment last year, climbing 0.3 of a point to a 0.9-point case share, according to Nielsen.
Custom six-packs are a smart merchandising strategy because they generate trial and incremental sales, especially in the craft segment, said Andrea Riberi, senior vice president, group client director, Nielsen, New York.
“It gives consumers the option to try a brand and, if they like it, go back and purchase a six-pack,” Riberi said.
Jungle Jim’s International Market’s newly opened Cincinnati store boasts a 40-foot wall containing more than 1,200 individually priced crafts, imports, seasonals, locals and domestics. Due to their soaring popularity, crafts account for over half the section.
Nearly every beer that Jungle Jim’s offers in a six-pack is sold individually as well. Each variety gets one facing.
“Consumers are inundated with new brands,” said Todd Wiggs, the retailer’s beer and wine department manager. “So this is an innovative way for people to try something new.”
While most of the bottles are priced from about $1.49 to $2.49, retails can run as high as $15 a bottle. Shoppers can grab a customized cardboard six-pack carrier to create a personalized beer assortment.
The section is so popular that it’s staffed with an associate to ensure the assortment is continually replenished and kept neat.
Merchandised by beer segment, the department includes rare imports, like Mikkeller from Copenhagen, Denmark, and Harviestoun from Scotland.
“The harder a beer is to find, the more popular it is,” he said. “People like to track them down.”
Read more: Mini Soda Cans CSD Segment Grows 
Local beers like those from Great Lakes, Mt. Carmel and Rivertown brewing companies get plenty of attention in the singles section. This is due to the growing popularity of locally produced foods and beverages on the whole.
Local brews are so popular that they will be merchandised in a full aisle at Jungle Jim’s upcoming International Beer Fest on June 14-15.
“There’s a push in Ohio to reclaim our status as a great beer state just like we were before prohibition,” Wiggs said.
People like being able to visit the brewery and come to our store and buy the beer they tried there, he said.
“It gives them almost an ownership of the brew,” said Wiggs.
Mix and Match
Retailers who test the mix-and-match concept often find quick success. Since being piloted in its Harlem, N.Y. store in 2011, the so-called “Pick 6” program has rolled out to seven of Best Yet Market’s 17 stores.
Pick 6 lets shoppers mix-and-match individual beers to create a custom six-pack for $10.99.
Allowing customers to create their own six packs has many advantages, said Steve O’Connor, Best Yet’s vice president of technology.
“Pick 6 gives a person the option to try one bottle to see if they like that particular beer,” O’Connor said.
More than 80 different stockkeeping units of domestic, imported and crafts, including locally produced brews, are merchandised in a 4-by-2-foot metro rack that is 5 feet high, with 5 shelves. Each shelf is dedicated to a particular style, from hoppy IPAs on the top shelf to porters and rich stouts on the bottom.
“The goal is to have an option for any customer preference,” said O’ Connor.
Bethpage, N.Y.-based Best Yet worked with its craft beer vendors and analyzed sales data to decide which brands would be featured in the section.
Many Pick 6 buyers will purchase a six-pack of a beer they tried from the singles assortment. Some of the most popular brands are Smuttynose, Lagunitas and Southern Tier.
Pick 6 is one of the top movers not only in the craft beer category, but also in the overall beer category.
As new items are rotated into the layout, consumers enjoy the treasure hunt of finding new items they can purchase from Pick 6, said O’Connor.
“There is a segment of craft beer consumers who enjoy trying as many different types as possible,” said O’Connor.
Read more: Jungle Jim’s Holds Lottery for Rare Beer 
Piggly Wiggly Carolina Co., Charleston, S.C., has a “Build a Six” section that features 75-100 singles. Some stores sell singles as part of a pay-one-price six-pack for $12 to $15, while others sell them as individually priced items. The retailer is moving toward a chainwide individual price strategy.
“We are giving guests an opportunity to ‘try’ a product before committing to a full six-pack or 12-pack,” said Nick Long, beer and wine category manager.
Selections cover all segments, including ciders, imports and crafts. To make this successful, variety is key.
“We are lucky enough to have some great offerings from some great breweries from around the country,” said Long. “This only helps this program.”
Specialty grocery chain Trader Joe’s, Monrovia, Calif., is on the singles scene as well. Some of its singles are sold in 750 ml bottles for up to $15; others are sold for $2 to $3. Selections include Boatswain chocolate stout, $2.29 for a 650 ml bottle, and Samuel Smith Oatmeal Stout and Nut Brown Ale, $3.79 for a 550 ml bottle.
Sidebar: Tap Dancing
CINCINNATI — Make-your-own six packs aren’t the only way for retailers to spur beer sales. Tap beer is also making a name for itself in food stores.
Growlers, 32- or 64-ounce bottles that are sealed with a screw cap and filled with draft beer, are becoming a popular addition to supermarket beer offerings.
Growlers are so popular at Jungle Jim International Market’s new store here that the retailer is opening a second growler station in its flagship Fairfield, Ohio, store. The Fairfield growler bar is slated to open this month or next.
The Cincinnati store sells about 150 growlers a week. Each 64-ounce growler sells for between $7 and $20. They are packaged in $4 reusable jugs.
Most of Jungle Jim’s growler pours are crafts, but several imports are featured as well.
Growlers are increasingly popular because they enable retailers to cater to beer drinkers who want a beer that may not be available in can or bottle and those who simply prefer the taste of draft.
“With growlers, you get the true taste of the beer,” said Todd Wiggs, beer and wine department manager at Jungle Jim’s.
Best Yet Market, Bethpage, N.Y., has a growler station in its Harlem, N.Y., store. It sells six brews in two sizes: $9.99 for a 64-ounce, and $5.99 for a 32-ounce.
Piggly Wiggly Carolina Co., Charleston, started selling growlers three years ago as part of an effort to become a destination for the beer category.
Growler stations have since expanded to 11 stores, with two more planned for this year.
Prices for 32- and 64-ounce growlers hover around $15-17.99, but some beers go for $30. Piggly Wiggly’s growler jugs cost $5 and are reusable.
Nick Long, beer and wine category manager for Piggly Wiggly Carolina Co., said growlers offer more variety to its beer consumers.
Sidebar: The Beer Specialist
ST. LOUIS — There’s so much to know about beer these days that retailers are hiring employees who are the beer equivalent of wine sommeliers.
Schnuck Markets here, for instance, employs several Certified Beer Servers and Certified Cicerones. Cicerone is the Italian word for “guide.”
“You can count on them to help you find beers to serve with dinner or to enjoy on their own,” Schnucks writes in promotional materials.
Created by the Craft Beer Institute, the Cicerone program designates those with proven expertise in selecting, acquiring and serving today’s wide range of beers.
“Think of a Certified Cicerone as a sommelier of the beer world,” Chris Kline, one of Schnucks’ Certified Cicerones, wrote in a recent blog.
Read more: Retailers Dabble in the Draft Beer Space 
There are three levels of certification. The first level is Certified Beer Server, followed by Certified Cicerone and Master Cicerone.
Each requires different types of testing and knowledge. To become Certified Cicerone, for instance, one must demonstrate mastery in the fields of Beer Storage, Sales and Service; Beer Styles and Culture; Beer Tasting and Flavors; Brewing Ingredients and Processes; and Pairing Beer with Food.
Thorough examination is required including a 3-hour written exam of 150 short answer questions and four essays, a blind taste test of styles and off-flavor identification, and a videoed demonstration of draft system maintenance.
A Master Cicerone requires more rigorous testing.
|Suggested Categories||More from Supermarketnews|