4 Ways the ‘New Normal’ Is Influencing the Adult Beverage Market

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4 Ways the ‘New Normal’ Is Influencing the Adult Beverage Market

By Blake Burrus - 09/22/2020

We’ve all been spending a lot more time at home lately and this has led to a distinct change in adult beverage consumption habits, fueling tremendous growth for the category. According to Quotient’s beverage reporting, liquor experienced a 26% lift in sales over pre-COVID baseline averages during the first two weeks of June and 33% lift in sales during the month of May. Sales of drink mixes increased as well (22% the first two weeks of June and 27% during May) along with frozen beverages, which saw the most significant increase (75% the first two weeks of June and 76% during May).[1]

Given the sharp uptick in sales, it’s no surprise that those in the adult beverage category are also experiencing a surge in brand engagement. Below are four notable consumer trends that are important for retailers of adult beverages to watch.

1. Consumers are buying online week after week

Alcoholic beverage sales continued to rise when compared to the previous year.

Quotient data shows that wine sales increased 34% during March and April, while sales of liquor were up 38%. Broken down by state, tequila sales soared in Michigan, rising 167%. Bourbon sales increased 96% in both New Jersey and Kentucky, and vodka sales jumped 90% in West Virginia.

This trend isn't going away anytime soon. We believe as long as consumers are spending more time indoors, they'll continue to buy their favorite adult beverages online. Many individuals are likely to appreciate the convenience of shopping at home, so we expect online sales to remain healthy even as states reopen.

2. Consumers are purchasing larger case sizes

Beer has been selling extremely well since the pandemic started, particularly in March when sales jumped 42%. Large cases have been preferred, with 24 packs experiencing the most significant increase at 90%. Not to be outdone, 30 packs soared 87% while 12 packs increased 61%. Consumers were less interested in the traditional six pack, which still increased but only by 12%.

This sales trend is a reflection of how consumers prepared for the first run of stay-at-home orders. In short, they wanted to be ready for the long haul. Quotient data also shows that consumers continue to make fewer trips to the store — and when they do, they are purchasing more. By buying larger cases of beer (among other bulk items), it is easier to stay home.

3. Consumers are creating more cocktails at home

With bars closed for most of spring, many consumers were eager to learn how to make their favorite drinks without leaving the house. Quotients social trends data showed a 16% increase in popularity of the term “Cocktail” on social media during the month of May and first two weeks of June compared to the same period last year.[2] TikTok has been inundated with videos highlighting how to create any cocktail imaginable.

Aviation American Gin is among the adult beverage brands that have been using social media, sharing unique ideas and videos that garnered success on Twitter. Captain Morgan has been posting recipes, and Absolut Vodka has published numerous blogs to help consumers improve their mixology skills. Gin’s popularity on social media was up 14% during May and the first weeks of June compared to last year.[3] By engaging with consumers in their quest for the perfect cocktail, brands maintained their relationships with existing customers while likely generating new ones.

4. Consumers are supportive of their out-of-work bartenders and responding to brands that share the love

While stay-at-home orders and other restrictions may have been difficult to endure, they inspired many individuals and organizations to step up their philanthropic efforts and help those in need. As of June 1, more than 4,600 people donated $9 million to the COVID-19 Relief Campaign recently launched by the United States Bartenders Guild.

At the same time, Fireball Whisky launched a GoFundMe campaign, "World's Biggest Tip Jar," to assist bartenders and service industry members during this period of social distancing. As of this writing, the campaign had raised more than $965,000 of its $1,000,000 goal.

Earlier this spring, Guinness committed $500,000 to help communities during the pandemic, resulting in more than 500 retweets and more than 1,000 likes on Twitter alone. Tito’s Handmade Vodka has also used its Twitter page to announce the many ways it is helping to combat the novel coronavirus, including the creation of its own hand sanitizer, garnering thousands of retweets and likes.

These efforts aren’t only good for society, they are also good for the brands willing to lend a helping hand. According to the American Association of Advertising Agencies, most consumers (56%) are pleased to hear about the various ways that brands are assisting in the fight against COVID-19. This could go a long way in helping businesses persevere in the months and years to come.

Last call

The pandemic changed how, when and where we drink. It influenced our purchasing decisions and transformed happy hour into virtual gatherings. But it has not changed the passion consumers have for a great beverage or a brands’ dedication to serving those individuals.

Blake Burrus is senior VP of analytics at Quotient.

[1] Source: Quotient Internal Reporting Q2 2020 (5/4/20-6/14/20 vs. 12/30/19-1/26/20), all data is inclusive of aggregated and anonymized data from Quotient retail partners
[2] Quotient Muse Trends (5/1/20-6/15/20 vs. 5/1/19-5/15/19)
[3] Quotient Muse Trends (5/1/20-6/15/20 vs. 5/1/19-5/15/19)

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