Spirits and Wine Fine, Beer Dreary

Spirit, wine and beer on a bar
You can't tell by looking at it, but that beer is dreary. Image: Peter-Braakmann / iStock / Getty Images Plus

The IWSR released early figures on 2017 beverage alcohol performance and to no one's surprise, beer took a hit while high whisky and sparkling wine led growth.

Despite the explosion of spirits and continued growth of craft beer, total U.S. beverage alcohol consumption declined for the second consecutive year in 2017 by a touch—0.2 percent, or more than double that of 2016, and a total decrease of 17.6 million gallons or 7.4 million nine-liter cases.

This early information on 2017 comes from the IWSR, a leading provider of data and analysis on the global beverage alcohol market, and was released as part of its U.S. Beverage Alcohol Review (US BAR) database.

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After analyzing preliminary 2017 volume, the IWSR reports that beer volumes continued to slide in 2017, down 0.5 percent, a slump that continues to weigh down the performance of total beverage alcohol. Spirits were well up—+2.3 percent, and wine grew a healthy 1.3 percent. However, with beer making up nearly an 80 percent share of total beverage alcohol, when beer catches a cold, total alcohol still sneezes.

“The decrease in total beverage alcohol consumption is directly related to the slow-building trend of moderation or not drinking at all,” says the IWSR in their report. “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.”

Not only are wine and spirits continuing to grow and take share from slumping beer, the long-term trend of premiumization has continued to spur growth in dollars and volume. According to the report, spirit and wine priced at premium and above currently make up a third of the spirits category and more than 20 percent of the wine category, up from just 12 percent and two percent, respectively, in 1990.

Within spirits, the whiskey boom has continued, with growth approaching four percent, more than doubling non-whiskey spirits, which grew 1.7 percent. Within the whiskey category, bourbon, rye, single malt Scotch, Irish and Japanese offerings fared best, while tequila, mezcal, brandy and Cognac led in the non-whiskey segments. Still wine grew a modest one percent while sparkling wines, supercharged by Prosecco which grew an astonishing 23.2 percent, led the growth for the wine industry.

The IWSR credits other factors for wine and spirits’ growth. “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.”