Nielsen: Beer Growth Trailing Wine and Spirits

New data from market research firm Nielsen confirms what many beer executives have long feared: The beer category is continuing to cede sales to wine and spirits.

On-premise volume sales of beer over the 52-week period ending June 17 were down more than 2 percent, according to a new Nielsen report outlining the latest beverage alcohol trends.

During the same period, however, on-premise volume sales for wine and spirits were up 1.5 percent and 1.6 percent, respectively, Nielsen reported.

“On-premise visitors are seeking out new experiences and outlet styles, with brewpubs, tasting rooms and tiki bars especially popular among younger millennials,” Scott Elliot, the senior vice president of Nielsen CGA, said in a statement.

Among on-premise establishments themselves, Nielsen said growth rates within restaurants and bars were under “even more pressure.”

“Given that on-premise visits continue to be rooted in ‘experience’ rather than a ‘habit,’ it has never been more important for suppliers and retailers to understand, and activate against, specific consumer needs, occasions and repertoires,” Elliot added.

In the report, Nielsen also said off-premise volume sales of beer were up just 0.1 percent during the 52-week period, compared to 1.4 percent and 2.2 percent growth for wine and spirits.

Danny Brager, Nielsen’s senior vice president of beverage alcohol, speculated that e-commerce could be to blame for decelerating off-premise growth rates, as more consumers shift to online shopping.

“E-commerce may be impacting beverage alcohol in the traditional off-premise channel in a couple of different ways,” he explained. “One is online purchasing of alcohol increasingly taking the place of traditional store purchasing. The other is the indirect impact of less store trips impacting more discretionary categories, like adult beverages, where a significant percentage of purchasing has traditionally been impulse driven.”

Brager also believes brick-and-mortar retailers who do not currently offer online alcohol sales could be giving up selling opportunities.

“E-commerce in beverage alcohol, while still relatively small in comparison to many other categories, will continue to expand,” he said. “Off-premise retailers will need to deal with a growing segment of consumers who may wish to ‘buy,’ but who may not need or see the need to visit the store to do so.”

Within the craft segment, growth rates have “decelerated sharply in both channels over the past year,” Nielsen reported.

In wine and spirits, Nielsen said off-premise sales of Rosé have been “out of this world,” while pointing to cognac, Irish whiskey and tequila as “growth categories.”

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