The US beer industry posted its third consecutive year of increased volume last year climbing 0.5%, according to figures released this week. However, the recession has shaped the market with imported brands suffering at the hands of the growing popular category.

The growth of the distilled spirits and wine industries also continued to take market share away from beer industry, albeit at a slower rate in 2008 than previously, the data showed. On a volume basis, beer held an 85.3% share, wine 9% and spirits 5.7%, the Handbook showed. In 2007, the shares were 85.4% for beer, 5.6% for spirits and 9% for wine.

The Beverage Information Group's 2009 Beer Handbook showed that beer industry volumes reached 2.94 billion cases.

Light beer has grown to become the largest beer segment, controlling more than half of the beer market. Last year's launch of Bud Light Lime helped the Light beer segment gain 2.1%.

Ice and popular segments have also gained volume. These categories benefited from consumers trading down in the recessionary environment with ice gaining 4% and popular beers seeing its first upturn in more than 20 years with a 0.3% gain to 232.6m cases. Another direct result of trading down can be seen in the decline of imported beer, which lost 5.4% to 386.1m cases last year.

"Lights have gained ground continuously since their arrival almost 30 years ago and show no signs of slowing down," said Eric Schmidt, manager of information services for the Beverage Information Group based in Norwalk, Connecticut. "Light is forecast to grow 2% on an annual compound growth rate over the next five years."

The popular beer segment is also expected to continue its positive momentum, while imports, predicted to lose volume in 2009, will slowly recover over the next five years as the economy emerges from the recession, the Handbook said.