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Off-Premise Update: Spirits Dollars Surpass Wine Through October, As Seltzer And FMBs Decelerate

November 20, 2020

Eight months have passed since the first stay-at-home orders were given, and in that 34-week span ending October 31, retail dollar sales of distilled spirits (totaling $13.6 billion) have finally surpassed those of wine ($13.4 billion) in Nielsen channels. Wine volumes are still nearly double those of spirits off-premise, but premiumization continues to propel liquor industry growth. Ultra-premium spirits, priced at an average of $38.16 a 750-ml in Nielsen channels, have increased 36% in dollar terms the past 52 weeks, compared to 22% growth for spirits overall, +15% for wine and +8% for beer (excluding flavored malt beverages).

As its peak summer selling season came to an end, hard seltzer showed 99.6% growth in the past four weeks in Nielsen channels, though that’s well below the high triple-digit growth rates it had achieved in the past. Mark Anthony’s White Claw still leads all seltzer brands by a wide margin, registering dollar sales of $1.7 billion (+154%) on volume of 49.4 million cases (+147%) in IRI channels for the year-to-date period ending November 1. That volume more than doubled second-ranked Truly from Boston Beer and was nearly five times that of 2020 launch Bud Light Seltzer.

Mark Anthony is already the 4th-largest malt beverage company in IRI channels, behind only Anheuser-Busch, Molson Coors and Constellation. White Claw quadrupled its category-leading volume to a total of 47.7 million cases overall last year, according to Impact Databank, and is projected to outsell all but the seven largest-selling beer brands in the U.S. by the end of this year. In addition, spirits-based seltzers, such as High Noon Sun Sips, and wine-based labels, such as Barefoot Hard Seltzer (both from E.&J. Gallo), are also heating up in retail channels

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