What used to be a foregone Fourth of July conclusion—guests are going to order beer—is much less certain today.
Up until as recently as 2017, beer consumption and the Fourth of July have been best buddies. Sure, cocktails and shots have performed well but this particular holiday has been dominated by beer. This year may set in concrete the shift away from beer that occurred on the Fourth of July in 2018.
Why? Because as the co-creator of Heaven’s Door whiskey sings, “For the times they are a-changin'.” Bob Dylan wasn’t talking about consumer trends but his iconic lyrics certainly apply to the seismic shifts in beverage alcohol selection that we’re seeing.
Consumer tastes and focuses have disrupted beer sales. Wellness in particular has taken market share away from beer and craft beer. Flavored malt beverages and coolers (a category which includes hard cider and hard seltzer) and canned wine have been experiencing growth. That shift was evident during Fourth of July last year.
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According to Nielsen data focused on the one-week period ending July 7, 2018, beer sales declined 1.6 percent compared to the same week in 2017. Dollar sales for craft beer were down 2.5 percent.
Hard cider and hard seltzer, on the other hand, experienced significant growth. The former grew dollar sales by 8.5 percent, capturing $9,384,000 in sales. The latter, hard seltzer, drove overall growth for the flavored malt beverages and coolers category: dollar sales increased 150 percent. Hard seltzer came close to doubling the dollar sales of hard cider, taking $16,100,000.
Canned wine also performed incredibly well during the Fourth of July in 2018. Compared to 2017, dollar sales of canned wine grew by an impressive 56.5 percent. Dollar sales for the week were $2,758,000, representing almost four percent of total canned wine dollar sales for all of 2018.
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This isn’t to say beer is dead. Consumers spent almost $800 million on beer during the week of the Fourth of July last year. What it does indicate is that today’s guest is seeking alternatives to beer for myriad reasons: health and wellness, a desire for something different, shifting tastes, and convenience. Acting wisely on what’s driving changes to beverage alcohol orders can be lucrative.
Hard seltzers speak to all of those drivers: they’re low- to zero-calorie, they come in innovative flavors and flavor combinations that are interesting to today’s consumer, they can be served as cocktails with minimal effort, and they can be served in and taken to areas glass is prohibited. It’s little wonder that hard seltzer dollar sales boosted the entire flavored malt beverages and coolers category last year.
Savvy operators will anticipate shifts in consumer behavior during this year’s Fourth of July festivities. Hundreds of millions of dollars will be spent on beer but hard seltzer, hard cider and canned wine sales are set for an even bigger year in 2019. Plan accordingly.
Nielsen data, Total US xAOC (all outlets combined); 1 week (ending 7.7.18)