Poll: Beer-Shipping Laws Lag Far Behind Consumer Interest

An annual survey of drinking-age adults again finds that many would spend to have beer shipped to their homes from other states—if they could.

Brewing Industry Guide Staff Mar 22, 2024 - 4 min read

Poll: Beer-Shipping Laws Lag Far Behind Consumer Interest Primary Image

Illustration: Jamie Bogner

A recent nationwide survey by the Harris Poll found that 86 percent of those who identify as regular craft-beer drinkers would support greater access to legal direct-to-consumer beer shipping across states. However, only 11 states plus Washington, D.C., currently allow it—compared to 47 states that allow the interstate shipping of wine.

In partnership with the Brewers Association, Sovos ShipCompliant released its 2024 Direct to Consumer Beer Shipping Report on March 20. With virtually no legislative progress in opening up DTC beer shipping over the past year, the report finds a familiar gap between what drinking-age adults say ought to be legally possible, versus what is.

Harris Poll conducted the survey in early January, and it included 1,970 drinking-age adults; of those, 615 said they drink craft beer at least once per month. Among the other findings:

  • Among drinking-age Americans, 45 percent say they would be likely to purchase craft beer and have it shipped directly to their homes via a third-party carrier in the future.
  • Among those who would like DTC shipping to be legal, 63 percent say they would spend $50 or more on it per month, while 35 percent say they would spend $100 or more.
  • Among regular craft-beer drinkers, 85 percent say that legal DTC shipping would increase their likelihood of ordering beers from out of state.
  • Among regular craft-beer drinkers, 79 percent say they’d like to purchase beers they enjoyed while traveling but can’t find them nearby.

“The option for DTC shipping of beer could have a significant impact on revenue for breweries, as Americans continue to express their intent to increase both the quantity of craft-beer purchases as well as a likelihood to try craft beer from out of state if they could do it this way,” the report says. “Breweries being able to provide this option to their customers could benefit not only from increased sales, but also brand promotion and word-of-mouth recommendations. The opportunity for a larger, well-regulated direct-to-consumer shipping channel that complements three-tier distribution remains clear.”

Despite the widespread legality of interstate wine shipping—thanks to a years-long lobbying effort by the wine industry—beer and spirits typically run into opposition from specific groups in various statehouses. They include beverage wholesalers, who see DTC shipping as a threat to their businesses and the three-tier system, as well as anti-alcohol groups. A common criticism is that third-party carriers would fail to ID recipients and deliver alcohol into the hands of minors at home.

The Brewers Association also adds its perspective to the report, noting that distribution opportunities for smaller breweries have been shrinking in recent years: “The fact is, with more than 9,500 craft brewers in the United States and more consolidation of the wholesale and retail tiers, craft beer must expand to other market-access opportunities like DTC,” the BA says in its statement. “There simply is not room on wholesaler trucks—or on retailer shelves—for all the offerings available. This is true even in local regions, but more so when you consider the craft producers who have a small and loyal following, but no ability to expand enough to utilize a wholesaler’s services. For these brewers, legal DTC shipping would be a godsend, a new way to create and maintain relationships with customers, in much the same way that DTC wine created opportunity for small wineries decades ago.”

The complete report is available from Sovos ShipCompliant.