The Boston Beer Company, Inc. (SAM) Q4 2021 Earnings Call Transcript

The Boston Beer Company, Inc.  (NYSE: SAM) Q4 2021 earnings call dated Feb. 16, 2022

The Boston Beer Company, Inc. (SAM) Q4 2021 Earnings Call Transcript

Corporate Participants:

Michael G. Andrews — Associate General Counsel & Corporate Secretary

C. James Koch — Chairman and Founder

David A. Burwick — President and Chief Executive Officer

Frank H. Smalla — Treasurer and Chief Financial Officer

Analysts:

Filippo Falorni — RBC Capital Markets — Analyst

Eric Serotta — Evercore ISI — Analyst

Kaumil Gajrawala — Credit Suisse — Analyst

Laurent Grandet — Guggenheim Securities — Analyst

Nadine Sarwat — Bernstein — Analyst

Bonnie Herzog — Goldman Sachs — Analyst

Kevin Grundy — Jefferies — Analyst

Vivien Azer — Cowen and Company — Analyst

Wendy Nicholson — Citigroup — Analyst

Presentation:

Operator

Greetings, and welcome to the Boston Beer Company’s Fourth Quarter 2021 Earnings Conference Call. [Operator Instructions] I would now like to turn this conference over to Mr. Mike Andrews, Associate General Counsel and Corporate Secretary. Thank you sir, you may begin.

Michael G. Andrews — Associate General Counsel & Corporate Secretary

Thank you. Good afternoon and welcome. This is Mike Andrews, Associate General Counsel and Corporate Secretary of the Boston Beer Company. I’m pleased to kick off the 2021 fourth quarter earnings call for the Boston Beer Company. Joining the call from Boston Beer are Jim Koch, our Founder and Chairman; Dave Burwick, our CEO; and Frank Smalla, our CFO.

Before we discuss our business, I’ll start with our disclaimer. As we state in our earnings release, some of the information we discussed and that may come up on this call reflect the company’s or management’s expectations or predictions of the future. Such predictions are forward-looking statements. It’s important to note that the company’s actual results could differ materially from those projected in these forward-looking statements. Additional information concerning factors that could cause actual results to differ materially from those in the forward-looking statements is contained in the company’s most recent 10-Q and 10-K. The company does not undertake to publicly update forward-looking statements whether as a result of new information, future events or otherwise.

I will now pass it over to Jim for some introductory comments.

C. James Koch — Chairman and Founder

Thanks, Mike. I’ll begin my remarks this afternoon with a few introductory comments and then hand over to Dave who will provide an overview of our business. Dave will then turn the call over to Frank who will focus on the financial details of the fourth quarter results as well as the outlook for 2022. And then immediately after Frank’s comments, we’ll open up the line for questions.

Our fourth quarter depletions growth was 15% and full year depletions growth was 22%. Despite these strong depletion results, we experienced a decline in shipments in the fourth quarter as we continue to work through challenges with our supply chain and the impacts of the slowdown in hard seltzer. Fourth quarter shipments declined 24.5% compared to last year’s fourth quarter as a result of more aggressive wholesaler inventory reduction than expected around Truly. And then beginning in early 2022, our service levels to wholesalers declined due to supply chain constraints. This led to increased out-of-stocks for certain brands and packages with our wholesalers. Additionally, the beer industry is off to a slow start in 2022 likely as a result of the large outbreak of Omicron, the continued broad scale supply chain issues and commodity inflation that is affecting consumer purchases. As a result, thus far in 2022, lower shipment trends have continued to now, our depletions are also declining compared to last year’s comparable period, mostly attributable to the significant shipments from Truly inventory, pre-build and sell through one year ago and partly as a result of out-of-stocks. We are focused on resolving our supply chain issues as quickly as possible, but believe they will continue to negatively impact our business until the inventory levels have recovered, which we expect will happen by the end of the first quarter.

In measured off-premise channels through December 26, 2021 where our brand portfolio represents only 4.3 of the total beer industry volume, we delivered 43% of the total industry volume growth, the highest by far of all brewers. In addition we’re pleased that all five of our brands grew depletions during the fourth quarter, a good sign in the inherent demand for our products. We have a broad portfolio of healthy brands and we expect that our business will recover and grow volume, between 4% and 10% for the full year in 2022. We are thankful to our outstanding coworkers, distributors and retailers whose continued support helped grow our business during 2021.

I will now pass it over to Dave for a more detailed overview of our business.

David A. Burwick — President and Chief Executive Officer

Okay. Hey, thanks, Jim. I’d like to start my comments with some reflections on 2021 as a little distance can provide a lot of perspective. We’ve been chasing growth aggressively in the past several years and so believe this was the right decision. In particular, the nascent hard seltzer category presented a rare game-changing opportunity. And we did change the game. Our three-year depletions CAGR has been 27%. We transformed our company by growing net revenue from $863 million in 2017 to $2.1 billion in 2021. In hindsight perhaps, as the innovation leaders in the hard seltzer category, we needed to have a better feel for the category trajectory. We were squarely in line with everyone else, but maybe we needed to be more present even amidst the unprecedented environment over the last two years. There’s clearly much to be proud of and to look forward to.

We’ve transformed Truly into a very strong number two player and a $1 billion brand in this an unprecedented flurry of competitive activity and innovation for many well resourced competitors. Hard seltzers have generated tremendous growth for the beer industry over the last five years and we believe they’ll remain a very important beer industry category in the future. Hard seltzers were 10.4% of total beer dollars for the full year 2021, up from 8.9% during the same period in 2020. And much like the energy drink category, we believe that the top two players will continue to represent about 70% of total share of the segment as they have from the beginning, despite significant attempts from hundreds of brands to enter the category.

Consumer metrics remain favorable and Truly’s social media sentiment continues to trend positively. The category’s household penetration frequency and buy rates, all increased during 2021. Truly generated 57% of all hard seltzer category growth in 2021, more than twice the next highest brand. We’ve gained 18 share points against the category leader since January 2020. We’ve led the category in innovation and brand building, and outgrew the category for 16 straight months from September 2020 through December 2021. Truly was number one in percentage and absolute volume growth in all of beer in 2021 and grew household penetration more than any other brand catapulting it to the second highest penetrated brand in all of beer in 2021. This is very important because it means we have a large avid base of consumers who are eager for more innovation and news from Truly.

At our last earnings call, we updated and evolved hard seltzer growth model and shared our category outlook. And as we sit here today, we continue to believe category growth in 2022 will be between flat to plus 10%. Clarity will probably not increase until we start to lap July 2021 when the category started to decelerate rapidly, especially in the two-year volume SAC, which we look at closely. Regardless of which scenario has proved most accurate, we fully intend to outgrow the category throughout the year driven by innovation, continued brand building and superior retail execution and distributor support.

Beyond our efforts growing Truly, we also positioned ourselves for the long-term by continuing to build our consumer relevant portfolio of brands and creating more pathways to growth. We’re the number two player in Beyond Beer with a 26 share, while the number three in Beyond Beer is at a distant 10 share. We led category innovation where Truly established strategic partnerships with PepsiCo and Beam Suntory and dialed up our spend behind Twisted Tea. At the same time, we’ve increased our investment in our R&D and innovation capability over the past few years and the quality of our innovation is where we benefited. We’re far more than the Truly company. We have a broad portfolio of brands beyond Truly and a terrific innovation pipeline that’s well situated to address consumers’ changing preferences. To be clear, we do not need Truly to grow in 2022 to achieve our growth objectives because we fully expect to achieve broad-based growth across our entire portfolio of brands. More about our broader portfolio in just a minute.

As a reminder, we’d expected the hard seltzer category to grow at over 70% in 2021 and Truly to gain share. Truly grew depletions by 27% for the full year 2021 and gained almost 4 share points, but the category did not grow as we had expected. Because of our higher demand projections coming into 2021, and our commitment to avoid the out-of-stocks that we had experienced during the summer of 2020, we added significant capacity and pre-build inventories of cans of finished goods to levels that ended up exceeding our actual needs as the category slowed down. Wholesaler stocked up on Truly during the first half of 2021 but wholesaler inventory didn’t move as quickly during the high consumption months as we all had expected. The lower shipment volumes resulted in extra inventory in our warehouses and led to damage and expired inventory. As a result, we incurred significant temporary cost as we adjusted to the new category trends. These cost impacts are reflected in our third and fourth quarter financials.

In early 2022, our supply-chain problem shifted back to out-of-stocks on certain brands and packages. As such, we were unable to react to changes in demand and replenish the damaged product at wholesalers. We have the capacity in place and are working through the process to resolve these issues quickly, build inventory levels and reduce out-of-stocks. Our depletion and shipment trends for the first seven weeks of 2022 have declined 9% and 26% from the comparable 2021 results, respectively, due primarily to the significant overlap from last year’s Truly shipments and depletions in addition to the out-of-stocks. We expect them to start to reverse at the end of the first quarter and go positive in the second quarter. We still have work to do to improve our supply chain performance but we’re making good progress.

With respect to our broader brand portfolio, we believe the ability to create alcoholic beverages from a beer base with the range and variety of flavors previously only available to mixed strengths, coupled with the convenience portability and affordability of beer will be a platform for long-term growth for Boston Beer. Truly Margarita, just launched at the beginning of the year and already has a 5.3 share of hard seltzer and measured off-premise channels with limited distribution. It also holds the highest sales per point of any hard seltzer brands so far this year, and while still early, the first four weeks’ repeat rate according to Numerator is 16.4% which is 50% more than Truly Punch and four times larger than Truly Tea during comparable time frames. This quick start is a reflection of the large consumer base of Truly drinkers.

In addition to Margarita, we’re announcing today two new innovations to the Truly line up this year. The first is Truly flavored vodka, but flavored vodka which is being produced and distributed by our partners at Beam Suntory and hits shelves next month. The next one is called Truly Poolside, a cocktail themed variety pack inspired by Grammy winner Dua Lipa. This will be a limited summer release building on the learning from our highly successful limited release this past holiday season.

As Jim mentioned, we have a balanced portfolio of healthy well-positioned brands, all of which grew depletions in the fourth quarter of 2021. As we look towards 2022 and beyond, our aim is to continue to outgrow the category, especially as consumers drink more Beyond Beer products. Our very strong position in Beyond Beer is a result of owning the number one F&B and Twisted Tea, the strong number two hard seltzer in Truly and the number one hard cider in Angry Orchard. Twisted Tea was the second fastest growing brand in 2021 in measured off-premise channels among the top 25 in beer and has been the fastest growing brand in the last 13 weeks in measured off-premise channels at 24% growth. To build on a strong growth and market-leading position, we launched Twisted Tea Lite earlier this month and we’ve also started running winter theme commercials to help boost the brand year round. Angry Orchard remains the number one brand in cider with a 49 share of the segment in the last 13 weeks in measured off-premise channels, up 2 share points thanks to the continued success of Angry Orchard variety packs and Angry Orchard Crisp.

Regarding 2022 innovation, we previously announced the introduction of several new brands, the Bevy Long Drink, which launched in 20 markets last November and continues to expand distribution, Salazar Agave Cocktails which will launch at the end of the month nationwide and Hard Mountain Dew, which will be introduced in three states beginning next week and roll to another 13 states by the end of April. We also expanded our lineup of award-winning Dogfish Head canned cocktails with new vodka and gin crush styles. And in April, our Dogfish Head brand will kick off a partnership with Patagonia Provisions, a wholly owned subsidiary of Patagonia that offers responsibly sourced food and beverage products, to launch Kernza Pils, a classic German-style pilsner made with Kernza Perennial grain, organic malt and organic hops. Kernza Pils is the first in the lineup of collaborative, thoughtfully craft beers featuring environmentally conscious ingredients that not only taste good but do good with every pint or can sold to consumer.

Lastly, our Samuel Adams – Your cousin from Boston ad campaign is helping turn the brand around. As Tim Adams grew depletions double digits in the fourth quarter and grew faster than all other natural craft brands in measured channels, with the brand is consistently gaining share for the first time in several years. We just launched a Super Bowl spot for the second year in a row with the extraordinary robots from our neighbor Boston Dynamics and it delivered a great PR win with 1.8 billion impressions, and about $17 million in that equivalency. Despite the slow industry start to 2022, we believe we have the plans, the capability and the grit to continue our string of double-digit growth years and we look forward to demonstrating that in the weeks ahead.

Now, I’ll hand it over to Frank to discuss fourth quarter financials, as well as our outlook for 2022.

Frank H. Smalla — Treasurer and Chief Financial Officer

Okay. Thanks, Dave. Good afternoon, everyone. Before I get into the financial review of our fourth quarter results and financial outlooks, I’d like to provide more detail on the fourth quarter and full year charges and other costs related to the hard seltzer slowdown. As Dave explained, we strategically resourced against the high side of our 2021 internal category growth and market share projections to ensure we would not be constrained in our efforts to build our share position in the hyper growth hard seltzer category. Following last summer’s rapid slowdown, actual hard seltzer category growth fell below our internal low side projections and resulted in an excess capacity and higher than planned inventory levels of input materials and finished goods. As a result, in the third quarter, we reported direct and indirect volume adjustment costs of $143.9 million before tax and we estimated we would have an additional $36.8 million of indirect volume adjustment costs in the fourth quarter primarily due to unfavorable absorption impacts at our company-owned breweries.

In the fourth quarter, due to slower than anticipated Truly Hard Seltzer shipment growth and higher provisions for out-of-code or damage products we recorded total fourth quarter indirect volume adjustment cost of $52 million before the related tax benefit, which exceeded our previous estimate of $36.8 million. This $52 million cost impact includes unfavorable absorption impacts at company owned breweries and downtime charges at third-party breweries of $30.7 million, provisions for out-of-code for damage products of $13.8 million, increased material sourcing and warehousing cost of $5.7 million and other costs of $1.8 million. These total indirect cost of $52 million have been recorded in the fourth quarter financial statements, as a $9.2 million reduction in net revenue and a $42.8 million increase in cost of goods sold.

With this background on the third quarter and fourth quarter financial impacts related to the slowdown in the hard seltzer, I will now turn to our overall fourth quarter results and our current outlook for the full year 2022. For the fourth quarter, we reported a net loss of $51.8 million or $4.22 per diluted share compared to net income of $32.8 million or $2.64 per diluted share in the fourth quarter of 2020. This net loss was due to the indirect volume adjustment costs of $52 million previously discussed and the decrease in revenue due to lower shipment volumes, only partially offset by lower operating expenses. Depletions for the quarter increased 15% from the prior year, reflecting increases in our Twisted Tea, Samuel Adams, Truly Hard Seltzer, Angry Orchard and Dogfish Head brands.

Shipment volume for the quarter was approximately 1.5 million barrels, a 25.5% decline from the prior year, reflecting decreases in our Truly Hard Seltzer and Angry Orchard brands, partially offset by increases in the Twisted Tea, Samuel Adams and Dogfish Head brands. We believe distributor inventory as of December 25, 2021 averaged approximately five weeks on hand, and it was an appropriate overall level but included too much inventory for some packages but not enough for other. We expect distributors will keep inventory levels below 2021 levels in terms of weeks on hand as the need for peak season inventory pre-bills is a greatly reduced due to our increased production capacity. As a result, we expect shipments will continue to decline in the first quarter of 2022 and then return to growth in the second quarter compared to 2021.

Our fourth quarter gross margin of 28.7% decreased from the 46.9% margin realized in the fourth quarter of 2020, primarily due to the $52 million indirect volume adjustment costs and higher material costs, partially offset by price increases. Advertising, promotional and selling expenses decreased $3.6 million, a 2.6% from the fourth quarter of 2020, primarily, due to a net decrease in brand investments of $9.5 million, mainly driven by lower media and production costs, partially offset by higher investments in local marketing and increased freight to distributors of $5.9 million that was primarily due to higher freight rates.

General and administrative expenses increased $5.5 million or 17.6% from the fourth quarter of 2020, primarily due to increases in external services and increased salaries and benefits costs. Based on information, of which we are currently aware, we are not targeting full-year 2022 earnings per diluted share of between $11 and $16. However, actual results could vary significantly from this target. This projection excludes the impact of ASU 2016-09 and is highly sensitive to changes in volume projections, particularly related to the hard seltzer category and supply chain performance.

The 2022 fiscal year includes 53 weeks compared to the 2021 fiscal year, which included only 52 weeks. Full year 2022 depletions and shipments growth is now estimated to be between 4% and 10%. As indicated, we expect shipment trends will decline in the first quarter and then grow in the second quarter after lapping last year’s peak season inventory pre both. We expect total shipments to decline in the first half of the year and grow in the second half of the year as compared to 2021. We project increases in revenue per barrel of between 3% and 5%. Full year 2022 gross margins are expected to be between 45% and 48%. Our full-year 2022 investments in advertising, promotional and selling expenses are expected to increase between zero and $20 million. This does not include any increases in freight costs for the shipment of products to our distributors.

We estimate our full-year 2022 non-GAAP effective tax rate to be approximately 26% excluding the impact of ASU 2016-09. We are not able to provide forward guidance on the impact that ASU 2016-09 will have on our 2022 financial statements and full-year effective tax rate as this will mainly depend upon unpredictable future events including the timing and value realized upon the exercise of stock options versus the fair value when those options are granted. We are continuing to evaluate 2022 capital expenditures and currently estimate investments of between $140 million of $190 million. The capital will be spent mostly on continued investments in our breweries and could be higher if deemed necessary to meet future growth. We expect that our unrestricted cash balance of $26.9 million as of December 25, 2021, along with our future operating cash flow and unused line of credit of $150 million will be sufficient to fund future cash requirements.

We will now open up the call for questions.

Questions and Answers:

Operator

[Operator Instructions] Our first question comes from the line of Filippo Falorni with RBC Capital Markets. You may proceed with your question.

Filippo Falorni — RBC Capital Markets — Analyst

Hey, good afternoon, guys. So first on your innovation for 2022. Can you comment on the level of incrementality that you’re expecting from the innovation and your contribution to top line? And specifically for the Truly line extensions we are seeing that for Truly Margarita early results are really strong, but it seems like the cannibalization has been a little bit higher than historically. So I’d love to get your comments on that.

David A. Burwick — President and Chief Executive Officer

Sure, Fillipe, this is Dave. I’ll answer that. I think as it relates to Margarita it is — it’s really hard to make that — to make a a comment right now about how incremental it will be. We believe it will be because it’s really a hybrid as a hard seltzer but it’s also placed in the canned cocktail space and it provides Margarita drink, which is, as you know, the most popular spirit at a much reduced calorie count versus a traditional Margarita. So we — we’re optimistic about that, but I’d say it’s too early to tell.

As it relates to the broader Truly family, it depends on what you want to look at. You could look at Nielsen Panel, you could look at Numerator data etc. and everybody has a different number for incrementality. As we looked at last year — even I looked at Punch, which started very strong but then it did fade a bit in the fall. It had at least a 50% incrementality, so it’s really hard to truly measure what is incrementality, but obviously our goal, when we innovate is to bring — find a way to deliver something different to the marketplace so we’ll draw new consumers in into the category away from other categories or from other brands, and in so doing, we’re hopefully optimize the incrementality. But if anybody tells you that they know an exact number of what the incrementality is, I’d like to meet them because it’s really, really hard to do that.

Filippo Falorni — RBC Capital Markets — Analyst

Got it. That makes a lot of sense. And then on the hard seltzer category, broadly for 2022, Jim, you mentioned that the entire beer industry has started ’22 a little bit slower than expected in January, but you still think in the category can be flat to up 10% for 2022. I guess what gives you the comfort that we are going to see a rebound as we get past the January or maybe the winter season as we get through 2022?

C. James Koch — Chairman and Founder

The confidence really comes from the consumer and I think it’s becoming increasingly clear that the growth in all alcoholic beverages is going to come from this — it’s being called Beyond Beer Space but it’s also beyond wine, it’s beyond liquor. It’s sort of a fourth category that is built on flavor and convenience and consumers that are alcohol agnostic. So, I see that continuing to grow, I see consumers gravitating towards primarily hard seltzer and sort of beer base items in there because they offer a better value. And spirits-based products, because of — we’ve always had different tax regimes for beer, wine and liquor. They’ve always been differentiated since, well, since the beginning of Republic in 1791 when the first broad based tax came out. It was own whiskey and not on beer spirits. So as a result, it basically — to boil it down, if you want a spirit-space product, you get four cans for $10 and if you want a beer base when you get six cans for $10 and you also have significantly better distribution opportunity. So all of this is playing into where consumers are moving and the RTD products will certainly get their share. And they’re growing, last year triple digits, so, I think they’ve got another year or two of growth. But at the end of the day, the beer-based products offer better value to the consumer and wider distribution. And I just — I think hard seltzer — it’s moved beyond just sort of LeCroy with alcohol, it’s — we’re seltzer-ising other categories like lemonade, like tea and now margarita as the most popular cocktail in the country.

Filippo Falorni — RBC Capital Markets — Analyst

Got it. Thanks for the color, guys. I’ll pass it on.

Operator

Our next question comes from the line of Eric Serotta with Evercore. You may proceed with your question.

Eric Serotta — Evercore ISI — Analyst

Good afternoon. Hoping you could give some color on your confidence in being able to outgrow the hard seltzer category for the year. Certainly, starting the year, it looks like you’re ceding some market share on both a sequential and year-on-year basis. I realize that comps are very different for you and the largest competitor, and the number four player is expanding distribution nationally. But I guess, what gives you the confidence in being able to hold or grow market share for Truly for the year? And then separate com — separate question on pricing. It looks like you took down your expectation for pricing at the top end slightly. Just wondering what the reason was that the 6% always seemed a little aggressive, but wondering if that’s really related to any particular brands or regions.

David A. Burwick — President and Chief Executive Officer

Hey, thanks Eric. I think, Frank and I will tag team your two questions. I’ll take the first one regarding our confidence in Truly able to gain share. I would start with — to me the most important thing is that we have — we’ve built a brand that has the second largest penetration in all Beer, about 13.4%. So, Bud Light Beer is number one and Truly is number two. So we have a very large base to play to. We have a base of consumers who are going to be interested in innovation, interested in news and we’re going to have their attention. I think that’s really important as we innovate. So Truly Margarita is the first one we talked about just today, Truly Poolside. There are others that we’re not, we can’t talk about, yet. So there’ll be continued innovation and the key is to look at — it’s hard to — it’s hard not to but it’s that you can’t look at the category week — one week at a time or even three or four weeks. You’ve got to look at it over a longer period of time and that’s how we’re viewing it. And, yes, we have huge overlaps right now. We grew and Truly grew in January last year 135% in IRI, and I think the category grew around 80% – 85% IRI a year ago.

So we have to look beyond these overlaps and just focus on — we’ve built an important brand that has a large consumer following. We have really strong social media sentiment, it continues to grow. Our aided awareness levels are still below the number one player. so there’s not — there’s definitely opportunity to improve that. We have the highest repeat rate and we have the highest buy rates. So we’re starting from a position of strength, but it’s really — it’s up to us though to find the right ways to innovate and also to build the core business as well. The base business, and market that business and we have — in fact, we have a new ad campaign that kicked off today that started with Truly Margarita. So there is a multiplicity of things we need to do, but we feel like we’ve got — we understand the brand, we understand the consumer and we know what people are looking for and so we feel like we’re in a good place and we’ve now — now we’re going to put our heads down and we drive the business and we’ll see three, four months from now, where we are. So that’s sort of my — I was saying that’s my response to the — your confidence level we’re in gaining share and I’m going to hand to Frank who could talk a little bit more about the pricing piece there.

Frank H. Smalla — Treasurer and Chief Financial Officer

Yes, Eric. The — we slightly narrowed the range from 3 to 6 and 3 to 5, as you know that. And it’s just like we’ve learned a little bit more. There was not a single event. When we gave the last guidance, it was in October. Since then we have executed quite a bit of pricing as we go into or as we came into 2022 there’s — naturally there’s a a lot of carryover pricing which is defining with par and pricing is a very local affair. We give you a national average for our company, but it’s a very local affair and as we see, what makes sense for our product and also as we look at the inflation that we have in our cost base, we feel that the 3 to 5 is a more realistic and it’s more unlikely get it — to get to 6%, on an average. That — there will be markets that have a little bit more, there are variances between markets but on average, we feel that’s the better range based on what we’ve learned and the pricing that we’ve implemented. But no big differences between brands or anything or no one major event. It was just like when we came out in October, you just don’t know a lot and we felt this was kind of the range, a 3% range where we would land at the end of the day.

Eric Serotta — Evercore ISI — Analyst

Great, thanks. I’ll pass it on.

Operator

Our next question comes from the line of Kaumil Gajrawala with Credit Suisse. You may proceed with your question.

Kaumil Gajrawala — Credit Suisse — Analyst

Hi, thanks for the question. If I could ask maybe for some more details. There’s quite a notable change in the beginning of January versus where you were trending before. As you’ve dug into it, is there anything additional you can add into what’s behind, obviously not from a shipments perspective, but from a depletions perspective. Just what you’re seeing in the short period of time because it’s quite a big change versus where you were in the first quarter.

Frank H. Smalla — Treasurer and Chief Financial Officer

Yes, Kaumil, let me take that. You’ve seen the shipments, I think the shipment is pretty clear. Year-to-date, we’re 29%. The drivers are somewhat similar. You have — we’re lapping the pre-build for the shipment, one. The pre-build is also that we had last year is impacting a little bit depletions as well because if you recall, we were growing shipments in Q1, 60%. Depletions were up 48%. If you — yes, everybody was building up the inventory, not only at wholesaler level, but also at retailer level. So this, in a more flat category as we are now, we’re slightly growing, that has reversed, very clearly. So this is one thing. The second thing I’d say, as we indicated, because we had more damaged products and we certainly had a bit of a gap in our inventory, so inventory that we thought were going to have, we didn’t have, and it took us a while to pivot our supply chain and replenish that inventory internally and at wholesaler. So we didn’t have the production that we needed to get to the shipments that we needed so that had an impact as well. And then I think the third one is, in general the beer category. But I’d say our internal problems account — I would say probably, for two-thirds of the depletions decline that you see in year-to-date numbers that we gave you, the 9%.

Kaumil Gajrawala — Credit Suisse — Analyst

Okay. Great. Thank you. And can I ask about your outlooks for can cost over the course of this year? And maybe [Speech Overlap] can availability?

Frank H. Smalla — Treasurer and Chief Financial Officer

So, availability — we have — we feel confident that we have the available cans. I mean, clearly the dynamics have shifted quite a bit. As in the past there was — up until, I’d say, the middle of 2021, the shortage was clearly in slim cans, which was all the seltzer and then with the slowdown, slim-can capacity became more available and standard cans became more scarce, which is mainly where our Twisted Tea is and our other products and Truly is the slim cans. But we feel confident we have secured the volume for all the cans. So — and then on the pricing in itself, we don’t expect major changes. The only thing that we will see is what is the pass-through is the commodity costs, which is the aluminum and general inflation and that is going up and that’s reflected basically in the cost that we’ve taken as a basis for our pricing that I covered earlier.

Kaumil Gajrawala — Credit Suisse — Analyst

Okay. Thank you.

Frank H. Smalla — Treasurer and Chief Financial Officer

All right.

Operator

Our next question comes from the line of Laurent Grandet with Guggenheim. You may proceed with your question.

Laurent Grandet — Guggenheim Securities — Analyst

Yes. Good afternoon, everyone. So my — I do have two questions. The first one is really a follow-up from an earlier question. It seems like on Truly’s share a bit of softness in — at the beginning of the year has been discussed already, but when you dig into the numbers, it seems like the the share loss is coming more from the what we call the mild flavor, the wide can, not the bold flavors where you pivoted two years ago. So it is a declining sub segment, I feel the largest one where you are losing share. Is there anything you would do about that piece of the segment that I know it’s not growing, but it’s still about 60-plus percent of all of the category? That would be great because that’s — it’s impacting your market share right now.

David A. Burwick — President and Chief Executive Officer

Hey, Laurent, this is Dave. I’ll take that. And Jim — maybe Jim wants to layer on top of this but I think, yes, we — what you see is correct. And we are focused on that because we can. The challenge with this category is that people want — they want — consumers want news and innovation, and the further you go out on the innovation when the more you have to support where you started the base. In this case to wide cans, we call them the OGs, if you will. So there’s definitely — there will be news that we will be sharing later in the year when we can about the — about what we’re going to do to support the OGs. Certainly there’s a new campaign but we have to look at everything to focus on that part of the business because it’s important. And to your point, it’s sizable and it hasn’t been growing. So it’s a point well taken and that’s something that we are focused on.

Laurent Grandet — Guggenheim Securities — Analyst

Thanks. Thanks. Because generally you don’t want — I mean, especially in convenience store having retailers choosing a way to represent that segment and you focusing on multiple flavors. Okay. Second question is really about margin. Trying to figure out the puts and takes here. You mentioned about the aluminum costs already but on the other hand, on the positive side — I mean to get to a — probably a better level of comfort on the gross margin cadence, there are probably some element of mix benefit between selling less Truly and more Twisted Tea. There is probably a bit of upside coming from the new contract manufacturing setting DAP with focusing on fewer, but probably more profitable contract manufacturers. And probably also a bit of shipment benefits as as you’ve got two facilities now operating on the west part of the U.S. in California and Arizona. So could you help us figure out basically the puts and takes in and how you get to your gross margin that you indicated, and per year give us a bit more on the positives?

Frank H. Smalla — Treasurer and Chief Financial Officer

Yes. Laurent, this is Frank, I’m going to cover that. I think on the dynamics and on the building blocks to get the gross margin back to target, ultimately to over 15%, those building blocks has not changed. And you mentioned that partly, one is the network. We have like four anchor breweries that we have that will be able to produce the key products that we have, that will give you benefits in internally on the efficiencies and lower internal freight, which is strong up in gross margin. Then in addition too you get outbound freight benefit, which technically is not part of gross margin but that’s part of the savings. The other one is, the lower variety pack cost. That’s really where we had the highest cost. As we grew Truly, nobody really had variety pack cost that were affordable. It was like when you went outside they were significantly higher than what we had inside. And we were like planning to bring a lot of that volume in-house. We’re still doing that. We’re a little bit delayed on that because we had to start up, took a little longer. The focus on the clean-up that we had to do end of the year, took a of time. So we’re again some of the benefits in 2022 but not as much as we had originally projected. That’s coming a little later and a big chunk of that will come in 2023.

There is also — so we get a bit of a mix between internal and external, and we also lower overall the cost of variety packing internally and externally. And then we’re working on higher internal throughput. We put the lines in relatively quickly. As we improve the running of those lines, we will create more capacity. And then as we’ve mentioned before, there is the supply chain transformation efforts that are underway, will give us significant efficiencies. So those are clear changes that we have like the structural changes that we’re pursuing. Those have not changed. Based on the slow start, the beginning of the year and the slower start-up course versus what we had originally projected, they’re a little bit delayed. But the drivers haven’t changed and the absolute target hasn’t changed.

Laurent Grandet — Guggenheim Securities — Analyst

Thanks, Frank. Maybe you can specify what was the percentage of in-house manufacturing now for Truly, where you are right now.

Frank H. Smalla — Treasurer and Chief Financial Officer

So, the in-house — we don’t give it by package, to be honest. Not all it. We were at 50-50 and as — it has come down, overall, because — the in-house has increased, I’m sorry, the outside has decreased. The in-house has increased as the volume has come down, and I believe that for total, that has gone up by about 10 percentage points. But again, that depends. We are running our internal breweries to 100% of the capacity that is available and only the balance goes externally. So as we create more capacity during the year that mix shift should improve over time.

Laurent Grandet — Guggenheim Securities — Analyst

Thank you. I pass it on. Thank you very much.

Frank H. Smalla — Treasurer and Chief Financial Officer

All right. Thanks.

Operator

Our next question comes from the line of Nadine Sarwat with Bernstein. You may proceed with your question.

Nadine Sarwat — Bernstein — Analyst

Yes, hi, everybody. Thank you for taking my question. This is Nadine. Few from me. First, so in the past you’ve had EBIT margins in the high teens. Is there any reason why you wouldn’t be able to get back to that over the next couple of years? I know we’ve touched on the gross margin, but taking that down to the EBIT margin would be helpful. And my second question, you’ve discussed the narrowing of you’re shipping guidance towards the more bottom-end of what you had said in January. Could you give us color on what exactly had changed in your expectations over the last month?Thank you.

Frank H. Smalla — Treasurer and Chief Financial Officer

Yes, Nadine. Let me talk to the EBIT margin. So, your assumption is correct. There’s a drop from where we were before and the mid to-high teen is essentially due to the reduction in gross margin. And as you know, there were a number of reasons. Yes, we wanted to take advantage of the volume in the hard seltzer category. So we’re focused on getting incremental capacity rather than focusing on cost. I just went through — we have the building blocks to improve the gross margins that should fall through. We have clearly increased our operating expenses over the last few years but but below the top line growth. Okay? So we’ve gotten some leverage. We didn’t get a ton of leverage but we got some leverage and we expect more over the years to come. So, operating income margin should clearly increase as the gross margin increases.

Nadine Sarwat — Bernstein — Analyst

Got it. Thank you. And on the second on the change in expectations?

David A. Burwick — President and Chief Executive Officer

The change in expectation. So again, the main shift happened literally late in December where — and I want to bring — there are two things. One is the wholesalers reduced inventory a little bit more than what we had expected. And then the other reason, which is kind of related is, there was more damaged product. We had like quite a bit of damage product that we had discovered internally but also at wholesalers and that came back. So with that amount of inventory that we thought we had available for depletions, that kind of left the supply chain and we needed to replenish that. We have enough capacity in the system, but we couldn’t react quickly enough to replenish that. Part of the reason was that we’re delayed from the startup of our internal lines. And then also the external capacity, there is a little bit of time notice that you need to give to bring the volume on stream. So we’re getting this volume in February but clearly January was impacted by that. So this — those are the main reasons.

Nadine Sarwat — Bernstein — Analyst

Perfect. Thank you. I’ll pass it on.

Operator

Our next question comes from the line of Bonnie Herzog with Goldman Sachs. You may proceed with your question.

Bonnie Herzog — Goldman Sachs — Analyst

All right, thank you. Hi everyone. I…

C. James Koch — Chairman and Founder

Hey, Bonnie.

Bonnie Herzog — Goldman Sachs — Analyst

Hi. I just got a little bit of a follow-up question first on sort of what you were just talking about or just gross margins and costs. I guess what I wanted to make sure to understand is that your guidance, which is a pretty wide range for gross margins, what does that assume in terms of further inventory reductions? Any other fees, you guys incurred a fair amount in Q3 and Q4. So just trying to understand, is that behind you or should we assume a lot of — or some of that continues into at least the first half of this year?

Frank H. Smalla — Treasurer and Chief Financial Officer

So in terms of write off, if you get to the volumes that we have given you as a guidance, in terms of write-offs, that is essentially behind us. The shipment decline that you’re seeing is literally largely driven by the fact that we are lapping last year’s inventory both. And as you know, we were expecting a significant summer. As I mentioned before, shipments were up 60% in Q1 and then 48% in terms of depletions. So it is — we feel relatively good. The question on the gross margin is like what is the actual split at the end of the day between internal-manufactured volume and external-manufactured volume and how quickly can we get the benefits from supply-chain transformation. But if there are no significant changes in volume versus our assumptions, we should have that behind us and that should be in the results.

Bonnie Herzog — Goldman Sachs — Analyst

Okay. That’s helpful. And Frank, just to clarify in terms of any of the contracts you have with some of these third parties for this year — I mean, I guess it will depend on your top line and what you buy your need. And I’m just kind of trying to think through could there also be some fees, if you don’t need that much volume this year, depending on how the category evolves.

Frank H. Smalla — Treasurer and Chief Financial Officer

Yes, that is correct. So the way — as you know, those third-party contracts are structured you have shortfall fees, if you fall below a certain threshold. Now, I think we’ve done a fairly good job in limiting our external contracts to what we really need. So we have essentially two external partners while we had quite a few more last year. And so, we’ve listed the shortfall fees in the K that you will see, but we don’t impact — expect like if the shortfall fees come that should be less than half a percentage point in gross margin. And that’s what we have also reflected in the guidance that we gave you.

Bonnie Herzog — Goldman Sachs — Analyst

Okay. That’s really helpful. If I may just ask a different question more on your top line just thinking about your shipment and depletion guidance. I really do appreciate that you guys are taking a step back on everything, but just kind of thinking about it and wondering if your guide is conservative enough right now. And I guess, what really needs to happen for you to hit the high end? And then what happens or needs to happen for you to hit the low end of your guide? And you mentioned that Truly doesn’t need to grow this year, so I guess, I assume that would put you at the low end of your guide. But then how much share would Truly have to take, I guess, to put you at the high end? Thanks.

David A. Burwick — President and Chief Executive Officer

Hey, Bonnie, it’s Dave. I’ll try to take a shot at that. I think as we look at this year — I mean, as I mentioned in the prepared remarks, we have a lot of activity around the base business and a lot of innovation. And we look at it — there’s many different ways it could come out at the end. So there’s different scenarios where we end up before different where we end up at 10. As I mentioned to hit that in the range Truly doesn’t have to grow. We were — we wanted to grow and that’s the intent, which would put us toward the higher end of the range, but we have a lot of momentum behind Twisted Tea. We have some really nice momentum behind Sam Adams. Angry Orchard has been hurt a little bit by these out-of-stocks that we talked about but it showed some good momentum in Q4. Dogfish, we have canned cocktails coming that we’re hopeful about. So we have — basically we’re placing a lot of bets this year. And again, there’s a lot of different permutations in terms of how it could come out but between just big — just base investment behind Sam Adams and Twisted Tea, Truly innovation and the other innovation we talked about around hard do and Salazar etc., again, we feel like that, that range — it is — we did — it is a little more cautious than I think maybe we talked about at the end of last year. Rightly so. We’d rather be, in the future, more cautious in how we guide, but we think there’s a lot of ways to get there. And it’s just really hard to say right now, how we’re going to get there.

And I think — I understand that now, there’s a lot of noise right now. Obviously, the first seven weeks, they don’t look great. And I think Frank talked through some of the reasons why in terms of the industry, the out-of-stocks, the overlaps etc. We just have to get through this moment and let’s see how things evolve. But we will have covered the out-of-stocks, as we mentioned — as we get into — by the end of March, and we’re often running in Q2 and that’s when we’ll have a better sense of where it all ends up. But we feel like this 4 to 10 range is — it has got a lot of different ways to hit, it is not just one way. And again, like a year ago, a lot of it was based on Truly hitting some big numbers. And this year, again, we don’t have to be successful with any one initiative. We just need to be successful with enough to get there. Does that make sense?

Bonnie Herzog — Goldman Sachs — Analyst

It does. So, I really appreciate that. Thank you.

Operator

Our next question comes from the line of Kevin Grundy with Jefferies. You may proceed with your question.

Kevin Grundy — Jefferies — Analyst

Great, thanks. Good evening, everyone. Two from me, if I could. The first one a follow up for Frank, on gross margin, the second for Jim, on the Treasury Department’s report. So first, Frank, not to belabor this, but just longer term on the gross margin, I think you mentioned a number of times, the potential to get back to the low to mid 50s. Can you box in a timeframe for that? Any sort of steady state? What is the internal planning for that — for the company. Are we talking two years, three years, as supply chain pressures sort of ease and and commodity costs ease to some degree? And how would you characterize the importance of this metric to the company? Because I think historically, there is a lot of focus on depletions and operating income as certainly key performance indicators and key metrics for management comp. Is there sort of a willingness to heighten the importance of this as a big value driver for shareholders? So I’d appreciate your thoughts then I have a follow-up for Jim. Thanks.

Frank H. Smalla — Treasurer and Chief Financial Officer

Yes, so let me start with the second question, with the end first. It is clearly a key value driver that we see and our target is absolutely to get it back to over 50%. We — it’s not an absolute though, I have to be honest. And that’s what you’ve seen during the hard seltzer. If we hit like a product that’s growing tremendously, we will always prioritize getting the product to the consumer and build market share. As then we flatten out, we were very clearly focused on on the gross margin. So our model is typically the service level first, like service the customer and then we go to the cost, but it is a very important initiative that we have and I laid out the building blocks. And if you look at the timing, the network we’re implementing, we’ve started implementing it and that’s what we’re seeing this year. So we’re going to get some benefits from the network.

The variety pack cost, that’s a little delayed, as I mentioned. So we don’t get — we have some higher cost variety pack production still out there that we will be able to bring in. The effectiveness sales, the supply chain transformation savings, this is a combination of systems and processes that will drive waste reduction, handling cost reduction, warehouse cost reduction. We have significant warehouse cost. Waste product that’s coming back. So once that gets in place, that comes. So at stage, you will see the benefit — we’ve really given it in the gross margin guidance for 2022, there will be a significant chunk coming in 2023, but it won’t be 100% of all the building blocks that will come after ’23, maybe in — probably — no probably ’24. But there’s a big chunk that’s going to come in ’23.

Kevin Grundy — Jefferies — Analyst

Okay. So it sounds like you get most of the way there by by ’24. Okay. Thank you. That was helpful. Just a quick follow-up, I know the call is kind of dragging on here a little bit, but Jim be great to get your thoughts on the Treasury Department’s report. It touched on competition in the U.S. alcohol industry. I think a number of different straight [Phonetic] conflicting finds, but I think competition certainly sort of stands out. It would be great to kind of get your take on the report, what you think the implications are going to be for the beer industry, if anything. And then I’ll pass it on. Thank you.

Frank H. Smalla — Treasurer and Chief Financial Officer

Did we lose Jim?

David A. Burwick — President and Chief Executive Officer

Yes. Jim is in a different location. Hopefully he is still with us. Jim, are you there?

C. James Koch — Chairman and Founder

I’m sorry.

David A. Burwick — President and Chief Executive Officer

Okay. Okay. Good.

C. James Koch — Chairman and Founder

I heard everything. Kevin, my take on this Treasury Department’s report is they noticed and stated the obvious, which is this is a fairly concentrated industry. You’ve got two big players who are losing share but still have maybe 70% of the volume in the industry. And you’ve got one big one that has bush — probably has, I think they average 94% of the volume on their wholesalers trucks. So that channel-to-market is dominated by a big brewer and it sort of forecloses it to independent producers. I think the Treasury Department — I — was maybe as they should be to protecting the small independent brewers. Also noticed that on a local basis, the wholesale tier is very consolidated, often where there was only really two viable players who give you a comprehensive route to market, and they probably did not give to me appropriate way to the beneficial effects of a three- tier system that has in between brewers and retailers this unique tier of independent, often family owned wholesalers. And frankly, without that, if we had the system we have in many, many other countries where the brewer owns the wholesaler and sometimes even the retailer, that probably would not have been craft beer. Craft beer emerged in the United States in part because of the independent wholesaler tier.

I was heartened, I guess, that the Treasury Department questioned previous decisions that have allowed the two big players to grow by acquisition. It always struck me a little weird. If you got two guys who have 70% even 80%, at the beginning of the last decade of the market that they’re allowed to grow by buying up their competition. Standard Oil, I think they had that big a share when they put the anti-trust laws in place. So that — but I would — the big question is kind of, so what? I think — clearly the Treasury Department came out on the side of small brewers, small producers but many of the tweaks that one might want to make to the three-tier system like limiting the reach of franchise laws that give permanent monopolies to wholesalers, those are state issues. That’s really — it’s not an appropriate place for them to go and while they might like to have more options for small producers to move wholesalers, it’s probably not really going to happen. So I — it’s a long-winded answer but I thought they made a lot of good points, I’m just not sure what any major levers, I doubt it. They do have some small levers like better enforcement of the tide house laws that through things like category management and tying up venues, big breweries are able to preclude smaller brewers from a lot of venues and maybe getting there shelves [Technical Issues]

Frank H. Smalla — Treasurer and Chief Financial Officer

Did the call end?

C. James Koch — Chairman and Founder

Yes. That’s it.

Operator

Our next question comes from the line of Vivien Azer with Cowen. You may proceed with your question.

Vivien Azer — Cowen and Company — Analyst

Hi. Thanks very much. I know it’s been a long call, so I’ll try to be quick about it. With the reduction in terms of the incremental A&P spend, I’m contrasting that with some of the commentary around focused innovation. Clearly, Truly is focused, clearly some of your partner brands are focused. I was a little bit surprised not to hear about Bevy because that’s kind of unique and organic. Innovation — so as we think about what your priorities are for 2022, is it fair to assume that it’s a little bit more concentrated in terms of where your priorities are going to lie to achieve the full-year guidance? Thank you.

David A. Burwick — President and Chief Executive Officer

Hey, Viv, it’s Dave. I’ll take it. I think — I would say — I say we’re going broader this year than we were. I mean, a year ago there was a lot of huge investment and focus behind Truly. There’s still going to be that support but we see — we’re fueling the fire on Twisted Tea and it’s working. It is with Sam Adams as well. We’ve got a lot of innovation, including Bevy, which we’re excited about and we’re going to support all of that. I think, soon, some will play a bigger regionally, some will play bigger nationally, but our intent is to support. And I think if you look back over year-to-year between — the last year was an anomaly for many reasons. If you look back just a couple of years to 2019-2020, our APS is up by 50%, and Frank can correct me if I’m wrong, but it’s — obviously, it’s up significantly. So we feel like we have the resources to support a broader portfolio. We’re focused with — very much on the brand positioning and we’re targeting how to reach them.

We’ve also done a lot of work in the last couple of years to really improve the quality of our creative that we put out there and we have a highly analytical approach to measuring the impact of creative and we feel like it’s working harder for us. I think Sam Adams is a good example, honestly, because we’re not spending crazy dollars on Sam and it’s having an impact on the business. So — and we — I mean, I’ll hand it back — I’ll hand over to Frank if he wants to build on top of that.

Frank H. Smalla — Treasurer and Chief Financial Officer

Yes. And so, Viv, on the overall spend, I think looking at the variations versus last year is a little bit misleading because of the spend that we had. We’re clearly planning to go Truly significantly more than what we ended up and as such was the spend. We entered the year like really spending against the category and until we realized that the growth wasn’t going to come through, majority of the money was spent. But we scaled it back a little bit but you don’t have too much flexibility. 2020 as you know, is — was COVID related, so the — lot of stuff happened there. So what we did, is, if you take 2019 as a base year and just like look at the high level numbers, our top line growth was 70% to 80% between shipments and depletions versus 2019 we have grown the top line over 70%. Our AP&S spend in the same timeframe has grown 60%, so that’s 10 points below that shows you leverage, I would argue with such a growth rate, you should see more leverage that you’re going to get. So we kept the spending high because we’re going after share. And but that also means we have sizable spending in our P&L that we can allocate to the brand. So, while it looks like we are not increasing much versus last year, we feel the overall spend is quite healthy.

C. James Koch — Chairman and Founder

And I would add….

Vivien Azer — Cowen and Company — Analyst

Absolutely. That’s…Okay. Please, Jim.

C. James Koch — Chairman and Founder

I know it’s been a long call, but I like to talk about this stuff. So I’m here as long as anybody has questions and I think, Dave and Frank are too. What I would say is, I think — what happened with Truly was once in a lifetime. It’s not going to happen again. In the last 50 years there have been like two huge really disruptive beer innovations. One was light beer and that took at least 10 years to get to 10% share and the second was hard seltzer and that got there in 4.5 years. That — the hard seltzer phenomenon was exactly that, a phenomenon. So, at least as I’ve been thinking about our innovation going forward, we’re innovating into a fairly fragmented category. Consumers are getting more and more nichey as they choose beverages by occasion and by cost and who they are drinking with and what time of day. The innovations may take longer to develop and they’re not going to turn into 10% of the beer category. So something like Bevy, we think it’s got a lot of promise but it’s not going to be like Truly was. It’s just not going to take off that way and it may take some years to develop.

Of course, the best example is Twisted Tea, which is now a major brand, big part of our business, big driver of our growth in 2022 and that brand has grown double digits for over 20 years. But it never grew triple digits and seltzer or Truly, I guess, grew triple digits the first four years. Tea never did but it has the same kind of potential to be as big as Truly at some point. It will just take it 25 years instead of 20. So we are kind of — with Truly, we had a grand slam home run, where we’ve never done that before, we’ll probably never do it again. Our business has historically been built on retail execution, the blocking and tackling, high-quality products that slowly find their place in the market. But then we score runs by singles, occasional doubles, maybe a funds or a sacrifice fly. And I think that’s more going to characterize the future than pulling another rabbit out of the hat like we did with Truly.

Vivien Azer — Cowen and Company — Analyst

Thank you, Jim. I really appreciate that perspective. And since you gave me the opportunity, I’m going to ask a follow-up and it is for you. I think your comment during the prepared remarks around some of the near-term softness, really stood out to me because you did call out consumers’ response to inflationary pressures. Then when I try to pair of that with some of the commentary that Frank offered in terms of the narrowing of your pricing outlook at the high end of the range, I’m just curious if there is any kind of incremental detail you can offer in terms of what you’re seeing in terms of health of the consumer? Because I feel like most of your larger CPG peers are just really leaning into pricing and they assume the consumer can absorb all of it. And it seems like perhaps you’re a little bit more cautious on that. Thank you.

C. James Koch — Chairman and Founder

Yeah, it’s a competitive industry, so pricing is maybe a little more restrained than a lot of other CPG categories because it is — we all want to grow share, we’re all very mindful of volume and it’s just — it’s competitive in some ways, and I think we’re also — and so — and our revenue per barrel is maybe not — it might not grow as much as other people’s, because we don’t have to trade up opportunities. Pretty much all the big players, they can get the revenue per barrel up by dumping the low end of their brand portfolio and trying to replace it, may be not fully replacing it at the high end, but their revenue per barrel goes up more than ours because we don’t have a high end to migrate and we don’t have a low end to dump.

And I guess the last thing is, just frankly, I think we were — we’ve been surprised by the softness in the first six weeks of the year. It’s — I think the whole industry has. Depending on your data source, volume is down 6% to 10% for no obvious apparent reason. You can explain a little bit of it by some timing changes, notably the Super Bowl being a week later this year. So we’re looking at in IRI data set that last year had the Super Bowl and this year didn’t. A little bit of noise around, I think, Jan — New Year’s Day was on a Monday, that meant — it’s better if it’s in the middle of the week. A little bit of noise like that, but frankly, it doesn’t explain what we’re seeing. And I — honestly, I don’t know.

Vivien Azer — Cowen and Company — Analyst

I really appreciate the perspective. Thank you.

Operator

Our next question comes the line of Wendy Nicholson with Citi. You may proceed with your question.

Wendy Nicholson — Citigroup — Analyst

Hi guys. My question is kind of a follow-up to a lot of the things we’ve talked about. And I guess it’s more a question of how you approach managing the business given the lack of ability of — on anyone’s part to really forecast the business. And I say that in the context of just the increasing SKU complexity in your business and the fact that lemonade was a hit but Punch was not, looks like Margarita is going to be a hit but might cannibalize something else. So you said a couple of times, hey, our focus is to make sure we have enough product on the shelves. But the reality is, your margins were a lot stronger when you had out-of-stocks. And so, I’m just — I’m sort of wondering should we be bracing for more write-downs this year because the odds that you’re able to forecast exactly which SKUs sell, how well, seems very low? And again, that’s not a statement about you, that’s just a statement about how quickly the industry is changing. So curious about your priority of making sure you’ve got the inventory out there even if it costs you on the margins or even if there is a risk of another write-down.

Frank H. Smalla — Treasurer and Chief Financial Officer

I — yes, I can go first. So, Wendy the — I think the situation last year was very, very different. We had like — as we said at the beginning of the year, we’re thinking that the hard seltzer category was going to double. We wanted to be really prepared. We saw Truly gaining share, so, that was a massive increase versus the prior year. And we had incurred out-of-stocks in 2020 and in 2019. So we did line everything up to have the capacity to have the cans available in to other flavors. Those were the three bottlenecks. So, we committed to everything at the beginning of the year for peak season. When it slowed down, we had a — there was no way to react because we didn’t have the capacity. That picture has changed dramatically. So we — at the end of the year, we ended up with too much capacity to the point that we had to cancel the external manufacturing contracts. We still have a lot of capacity. We don’t pre-build anymore. So our re-activity and firepower has greatly improved.

Now, we need to execute between the external and the internal because we want to run our internal breweries 100% but we are not really producing a ton of inventory. In fact, our ultimate objective is to go to a replenishment model, which will significantly reduce inventories. Now that’s hard to execute at the moment because we don’t have the systems and the processes or we talked about supply chain transformation which will enable that. But we should not see a repeat of what happened in 2021 just because of the sheer size of the increase on — and the growth that we experienced and we are forecasting in ’21. That’s not the case in 2022.

Wendy Nicholson — Citigroup — Analyst

Fair enough. But for example, I know you’ve called out a couple of times the damaged goods in the fourth quarter and I think it was $14 million, the charge that you took for that. Again, it’s not a big number, it’s kind of a rounding there. But at the same time, damaged goods are something we don’t hear about all the time. So I’m wondering, in this shifting supply chain, in this increasingly complex supply chain, what led to the damage goods? Was that on your part? Was it because you used a newer a third-party supplier who wasn’t as good as the ones you’ve used historically? Again, just want to make sure that some of the supply chain stuff that you’ve got stuck with, over the last couple of quarters, really is truly behind us.

Frank H. Smalla — Treasurer and Chief Financial Officer

So when it comes to damaged good, there was a certain part that was unique. And there was the aftermath of the tremendous stock but if you build — normally, you have two to four weeks of inventory And the wholesaler, it won’t take through the visibility of the product. What happened is that we were building up to significantly higher weeks of supply that then suddenly doubled because the demand didn’t come through. So the product stayed a very long time in inventory and it wasn’t really visible, it didn’t turn. So, when we have certain damage and the product was leaking, the damage was growing and it was invisible. So, it was a bit of a result of that we have that much inventory. And as we have more manageable inventory, that part should not really repeat to the same extent.

Having said that, we need to execute on our supply chain. There is no — I don’t want to take that away. There is work to be done as we improve but the big ticket items that led to the major write-offs, those big ticket items should be behind us, if the volume doesn’t change dramatically versus our forecast.

Wendy Nicholson — Citigroup — Analyst

Fair enough. Thank you. Thank you very much.

Operator

Ladies and gentlemen, we have reached the end of today’s question-and-answer session. I would like to turn this call back over to Mr. Jim Koch for closing remarks.

C. James Koch — Chairman and Founder

All right, everybody. Well, thank you for your endurance and we’ll talk again in a couple of months. Bye now.

Operator

[Operator Closing Remarks]

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