Premium-and-above spirits boost US off-trade sales

22nd April, 2020 by Nicola Carruthers

Off-trade spirits sales in the US grew 32.4% in the week to 11 April 2020, bolstered by premium and ultra-premium variants, according to Nielsen data.

Irish whiskey

Higher-priced spirits are boosting US alcohol sales amid the pandemic

The latest figures from Nielsen showed that off-trade total alcohol sales in the US for the week ending 11 April 2020 grew 26.2%, compared to the same period in 2019.

Spirits sales for the seven-day period rose 32.4%, up 1% from the previous week. Wine was up by 36.5%, while beer, flavoured malt beverages and cider increased by 19.4%.

Nielsen said premium and ultra-premium spirits continue to outperform the lower-priced tiers within spirits.

For the fifth week in a row, spirits in 1.75-litre formats outgrew the 750ml bottle size.

Spirits growth was led by ready-to-drink (RTD) products, Tequila, gin and American whiskey. At the lower end of the growth spectrum, brandy and Scotch whisky also performed well.

Across 1,750 spirits suppliers tracked by Nielsen, sales of the top 25 suppliers combined (accounting for around 90% of sales tracked by Nielsen) grew by 33%, while the remaining suppliers collectively saw sales rise by 39%.

Looking at non-alcoholic beverages over the past six weeks, Nielsen said tonic water witnessed the biggest increase compared with last year, up 66%. It was followed by lemon and lime juice, and club soda.

Total e-commerce alcohol sales for the week ending 11 April 2020 increased by 387%, compared to the same period last year.

Takeaway alcohol opportunity 

Nielsen CGA consumer research also revealed that while 62% of consumers said they ordered takeaway food in the past two weeks, only 9% said they have ordered a takeaway including alcohol. For people aged between 21 and 34, the number increases to 17%. Nielsen said this shows “significant upside opportunity” for on-trade operators to sell alcohol to go where permissible.

Nielsen also found that larger serving options are preferred when it comes to takeaway alcohol sales, including multipacks of beer and 750ml wine and spirits bottles. However, Nielsen said there is a “significant” amount of people choosing 200ml bottles and spirits-based RTD cans, along with 375ml bottles of wine.

In addition, Nielsen found that around 75% of consumers indicated that they expect to pay more for a delivered alcoholic package or drink than in a store. More than 60% of those surveyed said they are more price conscious when ordering alcohol now than before the pandemic hit.

Among those who ordered alcohol with their takeaway or would consider doing so, around half said they would think about ordering a cocktail kit or a pre-made cocktail.

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