This past year saw the beverage-alcohol industry continue to stabilize as it edges closer to its pre-pandemic standards. In a year that was marked by rising inflation and persisting supply chain issues, there are compelling reasons for optimism with category expansions and on-premise activity demonstrating strong performances.
In a recent presentation, CGA by Nielsen IQ issued a report outlining the key takeaways from this year and what knowledge can be gained from these trends going into the new year. From regulatory changes to the emergence of industry-sweeping trends, Park Street has evaluated the lessons of 2022 and what brand owners can expect in 2023.
2022 Year in Review
Several key trends drove consumer activity across 2022, and are poised to continue into next year.
- Consumer decision-making–especially on-premise–has been widely influenced by attaining authentic experiences. This was coupled with a motivation to discover new products, with 50% of US consumers agreeing that they’re more likely to try different drinks in bars and restaurants compared to when they’re at home. As a result, brands across all categories have responded to the consumer thirst for new flavor profiles.
- Convenience is now critical to consumers as well. Whether by providing e-commerce solutions to make products readily available, or introducing convenient packaging like boxed wine and ready-to-drink formats, brands were thoroughly invested in providing convenience factors through 2022.
- Interest in aligning with health and wellness trends continues to proliferate across all consumer groups. Imbibers now want to know what goes into their products and further how this contributes to their overall lifestyle. We’re beginning to see alcoholic drinkers adopt non-alcoholic beverages into their weekly routines.
- Sustainable credentials are now a crucial component of a brand’s ethos, with over 50% of consumers considering this when making a purchase.
- Premium products continue to drive the growth of the spirits category, with higher price tiers performing well across 2022.
Beverage Alcohol By Numbers
Taking a holistic look at all beverage alcohol categories, the total value of on-and-off-premise dollar sales rose 14% year on year to reach $198 billion sold, in the 52 weeks ending on November 8.
Off-premise outlets in the U.S. grew 1.4% year on year to reach 240,463 in total. Of these, liquor stores saw the biggest jump with a 2.9% increase.
Similarly, the on-premise grew by 2.4% year on year to reach 291,501 outlets, shy of pre-pandemic levels by about 10,000 outlets. With the premiumization trend in full swing, premium bars (3.2%) and polished casual dining (4.9%) saw the largest increases in the number of outlets. It’s also still the most lucrative channel, with 55% of total beverage alcohol dollars spent on-premise this year.
Over the past year, total on-and-off-premise spirits growth rose 18% to reach the $74 billion mark in total sales. Overwhelmingly, these sales came from the on-premise, which created 71% of spirits sales.
What’s more is that according to Andrew Hummel, Client Solutions Director of North America at CGA Strategy, in the last year, spirits “have gained over two percentage points of total beverage alcohol value share from beer and wine respectively.”
In the on-premise, tequila had the most strikingly positive performance of all spirits categories. Agave spirits saw a massive 1.1% rise in value share compared to other categories in 2022, reaching a 22.6% share of total on-premise value. The second highest growth in on-premise value share was gin at 0.3%, followed by whiskey at 0.1%.
Whiskey maintained its position as the top category in terms of value share, commanding 25.6% of the total on-premise value. Vodka came in as the second largest value category despite dropping 0.7% year on year with a 22.8% share, followed by the red hot tequila category at 22.6%.
Interestingly, despite a 0.3% drop in value share for rum on-premise (now just 9.9%), Hummel notes that CGA data suggests “as a spirit base for cocktails, rum has actually been the biggest share gainer. Even in a declining category, there are definitely opportunities for well-positioned brands to align with cocktail menus.”
In 2022, total spirits dollars spent in the off-premise were up 0.6% for the 52 weeks ending on November 8 compared to the previous year. The segments driving this growth for retailers were spirits RTDs ($435 million), tequila ($218 million), and American whiskey ($52 million). The rapidly expanding non-alcoholic spirits segment also contributed positively to on-premise sales growth at $2.8 million.
On the other end of the spectrum, cognac ($-145 million), vodka ($-131), and scotch ($-75) were the segments that struggled the most this past year.
When looking at CGA’s breakdown of spirits share by price tier, the dominance of premium spirits shines through. The combined share of the premium, super-premium, and ultra-premium spirits accounts for 69.1% of total spirits value, up 1.2% year on year.
“Interestingly enough, if you go backwards, the value of these premium and above tiers is very rarely below 68%. In other words, this premiumization is really baked in for spirits,” noted Jon Berg Vice President of Alcohol Industry Thought Leadership for NielsenIQ. “Come December, this jumps to about 72-73% of total spirits due to gifting and holiday entertaining. We haven’t seen any evidence that premiumization is going away.”
Expectations for 2023
On-Premise to Weather Economic Concerns
- Despite the persisting cost of living concerns like inflationary pressures, rising interest rates, and unemployment that consumers are dealing with across the board, CGA projects that dollars put towards beverage alcohol will remain fairly secure as we enter 2023.
- A recent survey conducted by CGA found that over the next three months 76% of consumers expect to spend more or the same as they have been in on-premise environments. “We’re really optimistic that core on-premise consumers will continue to visit and spend as they have been,” said Andrew Hummel. The same study noted that the on-premise is regarded by many consumers as an “affordable luxury” that they’re willing to prioritize over comparable experiential expenses like entertainment and sporting events.
Premiumization Providing Value
- Premiumization is expected to forage ahead in 2023, with the celebratory and “treat yourself” nature of on-premise visits encouraging people to trade up. This is reflected by 2022 CGA data that cites ultra-premium spirits as the largest price tier gainer among spirit categories, mostly taking away from mid-tier products.
Investment From Outside Bev-Alc to Continue
- This year saw large soda companies like PepsiCo and Keurig Dr. Pepper stake their claim on the beverage alcohol sector, injecting new diverse mashup products like Hard Mtn Dew and Lipton Hard Iced Tea. This is expected to continue in 2023, with Jon Berg noting that “there’s much more to come in terms of innovation [from these companies].”
Other Key Expectations From the Nielsen Report
- Sub-premium beer flourishing in the first half of 2023
- Non-alcoholic products gaining more influence among alcohol drinkers
- The maturation of the ready-to-drink market coupled with SKU rationalization
- Functional attributes to replace flavor as the innovation driver in beverages
For More on Beverage Alcohol in 2023:
Park Street Newsletter: Subscribe Here
Wine Industry Insight: Four Trends Impacting the Beverage Alcohol Sector in 2023
The Spirits Business: Predicting the Cocktail Trends of 2023
IWSR: The 8 Drivers of Change for Beverage Alcohol in 2023 and Beyond
Exploding Topics: 6 Important Alcohol Industry Trends (2023-2026)