- Global alcohol consumption rose by 0.01% last year — buoyed by increased sales of wine and cider — compared to a 1.2% decline in 2016, according to IWSR market research reported by FoodBev Media.
- Agave-based liquor — such as tequila and mezcal — was the best-performing segment in the Americas, boasting 5.3% growth. Whiskey expanded by 2.7 million cases (3.2%) in the region and vodka grew by 1.7 million cases (1.8%).
- Globally, agave-based alcohol, gin and whiskey were the fastest-growing categories, rising 5.2%, 4.5% and 2%, respectively. The U.S. was the biggest growth market for agave-based spirits, and the U.K. was the largest for gin. Italy, Russia and the U.S. were the leading growth markets for still wine, which jumped 0.5% last year.
Consumer alcohol preferences are shifting, reflected by continued declines in U.S. beer and a surge of product innovation around hard ciders and wine blends. Much of this change has been attributed to millennials, who seem to prefer sweeter flavor profiles, spirits and sparkling alcohols.
This demographic's interest in rosé boosted sales by 300% between June 2015 and June 2016, and French imports of the wine to the U.S. have risen 4,852% since 2001. Some industry players believe that the introduction of drier varieties of the alcohol have also bolstered consumer interest, with greater product acceptance among men.
In addition to its taste and mouthfeel, much of rosé's popularity appears to be tied to its color. Beverage makers beyond the wine category have tried to cash in on this interest by rolling out pink versions of their spirits and alcohols, including Codiga's 1530 Rosa Tequila, Sweet Revenge Whiskey and Gordon's Pink Gin. These manufacturers color their products with strawberries and raspberries or by keeping their products in red-wine barrels.
The trend is likely a savvy strategy, as millennial shoppers don't have strong loyalty to alcohol brands and could be wooed to new, exciting formats. According to Nielsen, only 24% of these shoppers know which brands they plan to buy when shopping for booze, compared to more than half (52%) of baby boomers. And only 43% of millennials let previous experiences influence their wine purchases, compared to 71% of boomers.
Beer companies are tapping this demand for light and refreshing alcohols by rolling out fruit-forward hard ciders. Last fall, the Boston Beer Company debuted an Angry Orchard pear cider made with Bartlett, D'Anjou and Bosc pears, along with Gala, Fuji, Golden Delicious and Granny Smith apples. The beverage maker told FoodBev Media last year that while fruit ciders are just a small segment of the U.S. alcohol market, the category is growing as shoppers seeks out complex flavors. Boston Beer has also seen sales of its Twisted Tea and low-calorie sparkling beverage Truly Spiked and Sparkling grow as traditional beer slides.
The IWSR research also noted that beer consumption in the U.S. is continuing to dwindle — and millennial preferences for wine, sweeter beer blends and low-calorie alcohols could be the culprit. To recapture growth, it may be wise for beer companies to follow Boston Beer's lead and invest more R&D in trendy cider varieties. Many beer brands — including Angry Orchard, Miller Coors-owned Crispin and Vermont's Shacksbury Cider — have recently launched rosé cider varieties to win the wallets of younger consumers.