Constellation Brands (NYSE:STZ) has good reason to be proud of its beer portfolio. Consisting mostly of the Corona and the Modelo families of beer, it has delivered 36 consecutive quarters of growth that extends back to the beginning of the company's 2011 fiscal year.

With the beer industry generally in decline, and the craft brewery segment posting anemic numbers, Constellation's double-digit net sales growth in fiscal 2019 was a standout performance. Its portfolio was responsible for 40% of the growth experienced by the U.S. high-end category and 100% of the growth in the import segment.

Yet even as it buttons up its premium wine and spirits business and takes a flier on marijuana with an investment in Canopy Growth, Constellation Brands continues to focus on beer -- and rightly so.

Three men laugh while drinking beer

Image source: Getty Images.

Mas cervezas

Constellation's net sales for beer last quarter were up 9%, mostly in line with the 10% growth realized in the year-ago quarter, though down sequentially from the 16% gain in the third quarter. For the coming year, Constellation expects beer sales to grow 7% to 9%, and it plans on increasing how much it spends on marketing to 9.5% of net sales.

CEO Bill Newlands said, "There are very few industry segments where this level of growth has been sustained over this length of time."

It's even more notable due to the weakness in craft beer, though it's definitely not a symptom spread evenly across the industry. According to the Brewers Association, the industry's trade group, import beer sales grew 3.6% in 2018 to 35.6 million barrels, representing about 18.5% of the total production of the entire beer industry.

Year

Import Sales Volume in Barrels

 Growth (Decline) 

2013

27,539,358

(0.6%)

2014

29,430,185

6.9%

2015

31,245,124

6.2%

2016

33,366,352

6.8%

2017

34,428,490

3.2%

2018

35,660,588

3.6%

Data source: Brewers Association. 

What's not reflected in that table is that Mexican beer is the driving force behind the growth in imports. Industry research firm IRI says Mexican imports account for 20% of the beer category but make up 72.3% of all import sales, and the segment's growth is expected to continue for at least the next five years.

Carrying the market

Constellation's Corona is the leading U.S. import beer, with almost $2.4 billion in sales last year, followed by its Modelo brand, which hit almost $2 billion. The 135 million cases sold in 2018 between the two brands is almost twice as many as the next eight brands combined.

Hand holding glass of four corners beer

Four Corners Brewing loteria-style branding plays on the fast-growing Mexican beer segment of the industry. Image source: Four Corners Brewing.

And Constellation raised its bet on Mexican beer with its purchase last June of Texas-based Four Corners Brewing, which markets its brews with loteria-style branding (loteria is a Mexican bingo-style game). It may catch on easier than Constellation's previous acquisitions of more-traditional brewers Ballast Point Brewing and Funky Buddha, whose growth seems to have stalled.

With beer generating almost two-thirds of Constellation Brands' revenue, making a bigger investment in the category that further celebrates Hispanic culture -- and is the source of the beer industry's strength -- seems like a safe bet.