US alcohol volumes drop despite strength of spirits

31st May, 2018 by Amy Hopkins

Wine and spirits volume sales surged ahead of beer in the US in 2017, but total consumption declined for a third year running.

Alcohol volume sales have declined in the US for a third consecutive year

According to data released by the IWSR US Beverage Alcohol Review database, US alcohol volume sales fell by 0.7% to 3.3 billion nine-litre cases.

The overall decline was a result of the struggling beer category, which witnessed a decline of 1.1% to 2.6bn cases – representing a loss of 29m cases for the category.

Spirits volume sales increased by 2.2% to 226m cases, while wine grew 1% to 363.7m cases – but this was not enough to offset the decline of beer, which is by far the largest alcohol beverage category in the US.

Within spirits, agave-based products showed the fastest rate of volume growth at 7.6% to 17.7m cases. Brandy (+5.3%), whisky (+3.7%) and vodka (+1.4%) also performed well, while liqueurs, gin and rum declined.

The value story of the US alcohol industry in 2017 was markedly different, showing overall growth of 1.6% to US$157.7bn.

Spirits continued to lead value gains, with Tequila, Cognac and American whiskey growing by 7.3%, 9.3% and 5.5% respectively.

Consumers increasingly viewed wine as an “everyday drinking occasion”, nudging value sales of still wine up by 0.9%, and sparkling wine by 4.3%.

Within its US Beverage Alcohol Review, IWSR notes that in 2017, consumers increasingly turned away from alcohol less due to health reasons, with 62% of the adult population consuming alcoholic beverages, down from 65% the year prior.

The number of wineries, breweries and distilleries increased by a combined 14%, leading to an increase of on-site purchases. There are now 2,531 distilleries operating in the US, according to IWSR data.

E-commerce now accounts for 8.9% of alcohol purchases, increasing 16% compared to 2016. Total alcohol retail sales grew 4.4%.

For an in-depth look at strategies employed by spirits brands in the US market, see our recent report, here.

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