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Nielsen reveals top US alcohol trends for 2020

From the “better-for-you movement” in vodka to the emergence of agave-based spirits beyond Tequila and mezcal, analyst Nielsen has revealed the alcohol trends that are set to be big in the US next year.

Nielsen predicts other agave-spirits beyond Tequila and mezcal will come under the spotlight in 2020

Nielsen CGA 2020 data has predicted nine trends across alcoholic beverages for the on-trade, as well as trends for the off-trade in the US.

Among its predictions for the off-trade is consumer interest in heath and wellbeing, led by younger generations. Nielsen says this demand will “drive more transparency in labelling and supplier product innovations”.

Nielsen expects to see growth in the following categories: lower-ABV spirits/cordials, lower-ABV ready-to-drink (RTD) cocktails, more alternative beverages with no- or low-sugar and carbs, low-calorie options, and “lifestyle-oriented drinks that tie into consumer interest in their active routines”.

Nielsen believes that spirits growth in the off-trade will be boosted by whisk(e)y, Tequila, Cognac, RTDs, as well as Tito’s Handmade vodka – which is experiencing double-digit growth. Premium and ultra-premium segments will “continue to outpace the category at the expense of lower-price tiers”.

Spirits will benefit from having a “versatile product range with multiple drink types, flavours, styles and mixing opportunities”, notes Nielsen, allowing the category to meet the “desires of the cocktail culture” and appeal to a “broad consumer base”.

In addition, Nielsen claims that US suppliers and distributors will put more focus on their e-commerce efforts.

“The industry has struggled to keep up with broader e-commerce expansion in part due to complex alcohol rules and regulations, but 2020 will represent a turning point in the industry’s efforts,” said Nielsen. “Key players will ramp up their investment, recognising the potential of impulse purchasing declines in mainstream stores as consumers fill more of their overall shopping needs online – and not via a store trip.”

When it comes to the RTD category, Nielsen says that packaging is key with a “focus on the convenience of slim cans and alternative packaging”.

Click through the following pages to see what Nielsen has predicted will trend in the on-trade in 2020.

Low- and no-alcohol

Expect to see an increase in alcohol-free ‘spirits’ with a “greater variation in products to appeal to different drinkers”. Nielsen notes that creativity in the on-trade will boost booze-free cocktail menus across the country. It also notes the “rising popularity” of Spritz-based cocktails, which have further bolstered the no-alcohol sector. Watch out for “new takes on classic drinks” which will allow low-alcohol Sherries, vermouths and sakés to shine.

‘Better-for-you’ movement in vodka

Nielsen says vodka trends will “continue to be heavily influenced by the better-for-you movement” with more diet and sugar-free vodkas coming to market.

Limited edition flavoured expressions are predicted to increase, “reflecting a sharp departure from distastefully sweet offerings of the past”.

Nielsen said: “The new age of vodka will be infusing more natural and interesting flavours for changing palates, incorporating yuzu and kumquat.”

Whisk(e)y appeal

Whisk(e)y producers are seeking to widen the category’s appeal. Nielsen expects “more innovative takes on distilling, non-traditional whisk(e)y mash bills, wood ageing and distinctly new flavour profiles to attract a broader demographic”.

G&T’s moment

Described as a “relatively silent staple” at US bars, the “often overlooked” gin and tonic serve could be bolstered by premium tonics, the lower-sugar content of mixers and the “social shareability of a perfect cocktail”. Nielsen forecasts that the serve will have its moment in the spotlight in 2020.

Tequila turbulence

The blue agave shortage is forcing producers to seek new sources, according to Nielsen. “Some companies are predicting that Tequila production within the next 10 years will be extremely challenging,” the analyst said.

Besides the popularity of mezcal, which has benefited from star power, Nielsen believes that “raicilla, bacanora, sotol and pulque will all find themselves thrust into the spotlight, as they are capable of being produced across Mexico”.


The alcohol category in the on-trade will be “infused with new technology in the coming years to empower consumer choices”. Nielsen believes it will take a number of forms including iPad menus, “more seamless, tech-driven payment options and even educational experiences through augmented reality”.

Experiential venues

Nielsen says the creation of “memorable and unique experiences for consumers is an enduring trend” and will “continue to make waves and move the on-premise market”.

The analyst cites examples such as “game bars, authentic experiences from other global regions, seasonal activities and elevated hotel bars” to attract and engage US consumers.

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