Social Standards Examines Possible Loss of Summer Drinking Occasions, Increase in Virtual Happy Hours

With summer drinking occasions at risk of being lost due to the coronavirus disease COVID-19 shutting down gatherings at beaches and pools, consumer insights firm Social Standards looked at the potential effects of that loss on beverage alcohol products.

The firm analyzed 30 beverage alcohol products whose conversation volume increased more than 10% between the first and third quarter of 2019 in an effort to determine those that “may be most vulnerable if social distancing continues.”

Products on Social Standards’ potential most vulnerable list include canned wine, Mexican beer, hard seltzer, rosé and non-alcoholic offerings.

Those least affected by the potential loss of summer gatherings include malbecs, wheat beer and craft cider.

Whether those projections become reality are still to be seen. For example, hard seltzers have maintained their triple-digit dollar sales growth and continued to be the beer category’s growth driver in off-premise retailers during the COVID-19 crisis. According to market research firm Nielsen, hard seltzers increased dollar sales 327% and gained 2.5 share points during the week ending March 28, outpacing pre-COVID-19 growth rates.

Beyond the loss of drinking occasions at beaches and pools, the loss of dancing occasions may hurt beer Mexican beer, pale lagers, light lagers and non-alcoholic drinks, Social Standards reported. The least impacted beer products by the loss of those occasions include flavored beer, fruit beer and wheat beer, along with malbecs and flavored gins.

As consumers connect to family, friends and co-workers on platforms such as Google and Zoom, conversations around virtual happy hours have increased 1,505% during March, according to Social Standards.

The winners so far have been wines and whiskeys — but not beer, despite several beer companies turning to virtual happy hours in an effort to engage with consumers. Over-indexing in virtual happy hour conversations are classic cocktails, such as martinis and old fashions, as well as spritzes and margaritas.

So who is posting to social media the most about virtual happy hours? Social Standards said they are women, ages 30- to 44-year-old, in higher income brackets relative to the average beverage-alcohol consumer. Those posters also skew more toward urban tech hubs, including San Francisco, Seattle and Austin.

Social Standards also examined why people are hosting virtual happy hours. The top reasons are to replace canceled events and stay connected with family, friends and co-workers. Those events also over-index in relation to supporting local businesses, which indicates that virtual happy hour participants want to support local businesses.

Social Standards also examined conversations about Netflix in relation to beverage alcohol topics, which have increased 55% over the last two weeks.

Netflix is mentioned in nearly 5% of all beverage alcohol conversations centered around “staying in,” and the streaming video service is becoming the “new Friday and Saturday evening Bev-Al activity,” the firm reported.

Social Standards found that the majority of those creating these posts are multicultural women, 25- to 29-years-old with a “middle income.”

The majority of those conversations are centered around wine and hard seltzer, and many frequently reference “relaxing at home” and “coronavirus.” Beers, such as IPAs and stouts, under-index in bev-alc Netflix conversations, Social Standards added.

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