What Americans Drank in 2019 & Will Drink in 2020

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Driven by shifts in consumer behavior and preferences, much has changed in the bar and restaurant world.

One big change concerns wine consumption in the United States.

According to recently released IWSR Drinks Market Analysis data, wine experienced a volume loss of -0.9 percent compared to 2018.

That number, less than one full percentage point, may seem small. However, it represents the first time total wine has decreased for 25 years. In fact, had sparkling wine not seen growth (roughly +4.0 percent) in 2019, total wine decrease would have been -1.5 percent.

Along sparkling wine, Provençal wines have also experienced growth. IWSR figures indicate that globally, exports of Provençal wines have grown +28 percent year over year for the past five years.

It’s difficult to know if this trend will repeat this year—we won’t fully have that picture until after December 31, 2020. However, wine wasn’t the only category to see negative growth, lending credence to the possibility of these decreases are indicative of an overall trend.

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Along with wine’s decrease, beer volume slipped (-2.3 percent). This is the fourth consecutive year that beer has been down, which is interesting when one realizes that the category represents the majority of alcohol sold in the US. Cider also ended down (-3.8 percent) in 2019.

This isn’t to say that all beer saw negative growth. It was domestic beer that experience a decrease (-3.6 percent). Imported beer (+3.1 percent), craft beer (+4.1 percent), and no-/low-alcohol beer (+6.6 percent) all grew in 2019.

Brandy Rand, chief operating officer for the Americas at IWSR Drinks Market Analysis, has identified changes in generational habits as a factor in wine’s slowdown. She has also identified hard kombucha and seltzer, canned cocktails and spirits as products brewers are moving into to appeal to consumers interested in healthier and more convenient options.

The news isn’t all bleak, thankfully. According to IWSR data, total alcohol consumption reversed the decline it saw in 2018, growing +0.3 percent in 2019. Distilled spirits grew +2.3 percent, but the RTD category absolutely exploded in growth to the tune of +49.7 percent. White Claw, Truly and other hard seltzers were responsible for +43 percent of RTD’s increase.

Vodka remained the top spirits category in 2019, but the title of “Top-selling Distilled Spirit” changed hands. Tito’s Handmade Vodka grew by +20 percent to take the crown from Smirnoff. Vodka (+2.3 percent); Cognac (+4.0 percent); American (+5.5 percent), Irish (+8.6 percent) and Japanese (+23.1 percent) whiskey; tequila (+9.3 percent) and mezcal (+40 percent) all increased last year.

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The IWSR has identified low- and zero-proof, gluten-free, low- and zero-sugar, low-calorie and low-carb, additive-free, and organic products as growth trends for 2020. They predict growth of over 18 percent for low- and zero-proof options.

The demand for premium spirits is also expected to be a prevailing trend in 2020. Premium-plus expressions of gin, genever, whiskey and agave-based spirits are expected to perform well globally.

Resources

Wine Consumption in US Declines for First Time in 25 Years.” IWSR. January 2020.

The trends that defined 2019 for IWSR's analysts.” IWSR.

IWSR’s top 5 US beverage trends for 2020.” IWSR.

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