Exclusive news and research on the wine, spirits and beer business

Off-Premise Update: Retail Sales Slow Against Tough Comps

December 22, 2021

Off-premise growth for the drinks industry has moderated lately as marketers navigate fluctuating conditions across the country. Wine, spirits, and beer continue to lag last year’s growth in the retail channel, which had been driven by a pandemic-driven surge off-premise. Compared to 2019, however, all drinks categories have registered impressive gains in IRI channels year-to-date, and it’s possible that growth could increase further in the coming weeks, if consumers again shift on-premise dollars to the off-trade amid another wave of the pandemic.

Hard seltzer and other flavored malt beverages continue to siphon share from the beer and wine sectors, while spirits continue to inch ahead at retail, primarily due to pre-mixed cocktails. Last year, pre-mixed cocktails surged 64% overall in volume terms to 15.7 million 9-liter cases, according to Impact Databank, led by E.&J. Gallo’s High Noon Sun Sips.

Spirits were up just 0.2% by value in IRI channels for the 52 weeks ending November 28, which includes the important Thanksgiving holiday. Aside from pre-mixed cocktails and spirits-based hard seltzer, the only other major spirits category to experience overall retail growth during the period was Tequila. Fully two-thirds of the 100 largest-selling spirits in IRI channels declined the past 52 weeks, and only 15 brands registered double-digit gains. Premiumization persists, however, as 14 of those 15 spirits were priced at least $25 a 750-ml. bottle—including eight whiskies, five Tequila brands, and one Cognac (Bacardi’s D’usse).

Total wine volume declined 10% in the year-to-date ending November 28 in IRI channels. Aside from ready-to-drink wine-based cocktails, the other bright spot in the category was sparkling wine, with a modest 3% volume increase and a 7% gain in dollars. Upscale bubbly continues to drive sparkling wine dollars, due primarily to double-digit gains from Champagne and Prosecco. Table wine fell 7% in value terms year-to-date but above-premium brands 19 Crimes and Meiomi bucked the trend with double-digit gains. 2020’s off-premise surge allowed the wine industry to increase its overall volumes for the 27th consecutive year, but this year the total market is projected to suffer its first decline since 1993, according to Impact Databank.

Beer continues to fall in IRI channels, declining 2% by volume year-to-date. Craft beer remains soft, and hard seltzer has decelerated somewhat but is still posting strong double-digit gains. Boston Beer’s Truly seltzer stayed on fire year-to-date (+31%) while top-selling brand White Claw from Mark Anthony fell 6%, as more new entries from both big brewers and craft players saturate the market. While beer’s struggles continue, flavored malt beverage volume (including seltzer) surpassed spirits for the first time ever last year—according to Impact Databank—and even with decreased momentum, FMBs are also projected to surpass wine in volume terms by year-end.—Juan Banaag

Beverage Alcohol Retail Sales in IRI Channels
(billions of dollars)
52 Weeks Ending Percent Change1
Category 12/1/2019 11/29/2020 11/28/2021 2019-2020 2020-2021
Beer $33.67 $36.88 $36.09 9.5% -2.1%
Wine $13.32 $15.02 $14.79 12.8% -1.5%
Spirits $6.15 $7.98 $7.99 29.7% 0.2%
FMBs2 $3.94 $6.80 $7.72 72.5% 13.6%
Hard Cider $0.45 $0.50 $0.49 11.6% -1.6%
Grand Total3 $57.53 $67.17 $67.08 16.8% -0.1%
1 Based on unrounded data
2 Includes malt-based seltzer and other flavored malt beverages.
3 Addition of columns may not agree due to roundingSource: IRI and IMPACT DATABANK © 2021
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