Beer makers face tough times as teens drink less, Cowen says
Investment banker Cowen is keeping a cautious view on the prospects for more beer consumption, particularly domestic beer, as drinkers turn to spirits and seltzer and as a new study indicates teenagers are rejecting alcohol and cigarettes.
Data show that schoolchildren in eighth, tenth and twelfth grades are continuing to make trade-offs between vaping and cigarettes and between cannabis and alcohol, with teens “increasingly shifting away from legacy consumption offerings,” analysts led by Vivien Azer wrote in a note. Signals are mixed for companies, with Constellation Brands Inc. and Brown-Forman Corp. potentially gaining and Altria Group Inc. missing out.
“Given the declines in youth incidence of alcohol, the shifts in underlying sub-category trends will ultimately be increasingly important,” Azer said, noting that “pockets of beer, including imports, continue to expand at healthy rates.” Meanwhile, alcohol and cannabis use is converging, as are “perceived risks and disapproval,” she said. There are also declines in lifetime alcohol use, perhaps linked with an “increasingly health conscious consumer,” she said.
Here are some of the implications for stocks, according to Cowen:
- Constellation Brands: Has gained share as it leads in imported beer in the U.S., with Modelo Especial and its Corona Family delivering growth and “attractive demographic attributes.” Outperform.
- Brown-Forman: “Firmly positioned” as distilled spirits category continues to gain market share and the company keeps growing in premium bourbon and tequila. “The domestic spirits business is healthy and should be supplemented by the recent launch of Jack Daniel’s Tennessee Apple,” even as tariff-related costs have recently pressured margins. Outperform.
- Boston Beer Co.: Exposure to hard seltzer via Truly “has changed its revenue algorithm,” even with difficulties in beer. Cowen is watching for seltzer tailwinds and a lemonade line-extension slated for early 2020. Outperform.
- Molson Coors Brewing Co.: Competition remains intense, while the company is still “over-indexed” to mainstream beer and targets outlined in a recent restructuring are long established. Market perform.
- Altria: Though study data look “discouraging for manufacturers,” Cowen flagged Nielsen industry data showing some “recent stability in cigarette volume declines.” Volume recovery may have an out-sized impact due to the “accretive unit economics between a pack of cigarettes and vapor pod.” Market perform.
- Turning Point Brands: May be insulated from youth trends as the firm’s core demographic skews older. Cowen looks for continued growth as Stoker’s ramps up distribution and as NewGen business becomes more CBD and less vapor focused. Outperform.
- Greenlane Holdings Inc.: Flags JUUL “challenges,” which support shift in focus. Outperform.
Altria shares gained 0.2% pre-market Thursday.