IWSR: Spirits up 2.3%, Total Alcohol Consumption Down 0.2%

Total U.S. beverage alcohol consumption was down slightly last year, according to market tracker the IWSR, but distilled spirits continued their low-single-digit overall growth trend. Beer continued to pull the total alcohol market down, with a decline of about a half percentage point in total category volume.

After analyzing preliminary 2017 volume, the IWSR says total US beverage alcohol consumption declined for the second consecutive year by -0.2 percent. This loss is more than double that of 2016, a decrease of 17.6m gallons, or 7.4m nine-liter cases.

Beer volumes continued to slide in 2017 (-0.5 percent), which weighed down the performance of total beverage alcohol. The growth of spirits (+2.3 percent) and wine (+1.3 percent) were unable to make up the difference in volume due to beer’s overwhelming 79 percent share of total beverage alcohol.

The decrease in total beverage alcohol consumption is directly related to the slow-building trend of moderation or not drinking at all. Signs of health and wellness permeate the industry with increasing frequency. From all-natural ingredients to low-ABV to zero-proof mocktails, consumers are clearly gravitating toward ‘healthier’ drinking experiences.

The bright spots of 2017 were wine and spirits which stole share from beer and increased in volume. The long-term trend of premiumization has continued to spur growth. Premium-and-above offerings currently make up 33 percent of the spirits category and 22 percent of the wine category respectively (compared to just 12 percent and 2 percent in 1990).

Within spirits, whisky showed the most momentum (+3.9 percent), outperforming non-whisky (+1.7 percent). Within the whisky category, Bourbon, rye, malt Scotch, Irish and Japanese offerings faired the best, while tequila, mezcal, brandy and Cognac led in the non-whisky segments. Still wine grew a modest 1%, while sparkling wines, especially prosecco (+23.2%), led the growth for the wine industry.

Another key trend helping propel wine and spirits is the rise in alternative packaging and small sizes. For spirits, 50ml and 100ml offerings increased at rates of 18.1 percent and 13.6 percent respectively, while 187ml and 500ml wines experienced double-digit growth rates. The rise in the quality of boxed and canned wines has changed consumer perception. Most importantly, this trend has been a direct hit on beer occasions like sporting events and other outdoor activities.

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