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Nielsen Update: A Sluggish Summer Selling Season for Beverage Alcohol Off-Premise

September 3, 2021

Facing tough comparisons against last year’s pandemic-driven surge, the alcoholic beverage industry has cooled off somewhat at retail, but there are a few bright spots. While total spirits sales by value fell 3.3% in the 13-week period ending August 14, higher-priced spirits rose 11.7% as premiumization trends continue. Flavored spirits continue to outperform unflavored ones, due largely to the ongoing popularity of prepared cocktails. Last year, this exploding sector surged 62% overall in volume terms, to an equivalent of 15.3 million 9-liter cases—according to Impact Databank—and prepared cocktails are projected to grow industry share until at least 2025.

Total wine dollars continue to fall this summer, declining 8.2% in Nielsen’s most current 13-week period. Sparkling wines eked out a 0.6% gain, but overall, the only fast-growing segments were wine-based cocktails and non-alcoholic wine. Table wines fell 10.8%, but once again higher-priced brands (at least $20 a 750-ml.) outperformed less expensive ones (-12.3%). Upscale bubbly continues to drive sparkling wine dollars, due primarily to Champagne (+7.2%). 2020’s off-premise surge owing to the pandemic had allowed the wine industry to increase its overall volumes for the 27th consecutive year, but by end-2021, the total market is projected to suffer its first decline since 1993—according to Impact Databank.

Beer continues to lose share to other alcoholic beverages, falling 9% by dollars in the 13 weeks ending August 14. Seltzers have almost completely decelerated, down to just 4.7% growth in Nielsen channels, while other flavored malt beverages fell 5.3%. Nearly every malt sector has declined off-premise this summer, with the sole exception of non-alcoholic beer (+283.5%). While beer’s struggles persist, flavored malt beverage volume (including seltzer) surpassed spirits for the first time ever last year—according to Impact Databank—and even with decreased momentum, FMB’s are also projected to surpass wine by year-end.—Juan Banaag

Nielsen—13 Weeks Ending August 14, 2021 
Category/Type Retail Value
(millions of dollars)
Percent Change3
Spirits
Total Spirits $5,229.8 -3.3%
Ultra-Premium1 $478.0 11.7%
Flavored Spirits $1,080.3 6.9%
Prepared Cocktials $348.8 43.7%
Wine
Table Wine $3,749.3 -10.8%
At Least $20 a 750-ml. $459.1 2.5%
Sparkling Wine $523.5 0.6%
Champagne $111.5 7.2%
Total Wine $4,695.2 -8.2%
Beer2 $10,468.0 -9.0%
Flavored Malt Beverages $2,531.2 0.6%
Hard Seltzer $1,539.5 4.7%
1 Average price=$68.87 a 750-ml.
Excludes seltzers, FMBs, and cider.
Compared to 13 weeks ending 8/15/20.
Sources: Nielsen and IMPACT DATABANK © 2021
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