Home Industry News Releases Beer Business Increase in Number of Alcohol Buying Consumers Drives Off-Premise Growth

Increase in Number of Alcohol Buying Consumers Drives Off-Premise Growth


nielsenNielsen Beverage Alcohol Practice reports total alcohol sales are up 15.9% in Nielsen off-premise channels for the week ending April 18, 2020 compared to the same week last year, though -0.6% from the previous week.

  • Wine sales in Nielsen measured off-premise channels grew +14.1% in the most recent week vs. a year ago, but decreased -3.3% vs. the prior week, likely as a result of the shift in Easter timing.
  • At the same time, relative to previous history, the Easter bump last week (+5.3% vs. prior week) was significantly less than the +13% Easter week bump that we’ve seen typically in the past 4 years.
  • Spirits’ growth was at +27.4% (+3.2% vs. the prior week) and beer/FMB/cider growth was at +12.3% (-0.9% from the previous week).
  • Over the COVID-19 period to date since the week ending March 7, 2020, the segments experiencing the largest uptick in growth compared to the full year ending February 29, 2020 have been 1.5 L and 3L Boxes, as well as 750 ml bottled wine sold at price tiers $20-$25 and $11-$15.
  • For the latest seven-week timeframe when COVID-19 heavily impacted consumer behavior (from the week ending 3/7/20 through the week ending 4/18/20), we’ve seen wine +29.4% in dollar sales in aggregate (from our in-store retail measurement).

Consumer Insights

  • The increase in the actual number of buyers making purchases of alcohol is driving off-premise growth the most – up 27% for the week ending 4/11/20 compared to the same week last year. Dollar spend on alcohol per buyer is also contributing strongly to growth, but at a slightly lower increase level (up 13.3%) for the week ending 4/11/20 compared to last year. 

In the words of Danny Brager, Senior Vice President of Beverage Alcohol at Nielsen:

“While the weeks of March 14 and 21 (huge purchasing stock-up) and March 28 (retrenchment) swung wildly between weeks, the week-to-week sales levels since then have been much more consistent – reflected in the latest week ending April 18, 2020,” says Danny Brager, Senior Vice President of Beverage Alcohol at Nielsen.

“Despite deep economic impacts, we continue to see premiumization in the off-premise across all three categories (i.e. the average price per equivalized volume is still ahead of where it was last year). Perhaps we’ll see that slow or reverse in the months ahead, but we also recognize that consumers are transferring money they might have spent on alcohol in a restaurant, bar or tasting room to something they are buying at lower mark-ups from stores or online, or from those on premise establishments that are offering alcohol to go at much reduced prices than ‘normal’.”

Direct to Consumer

Examining the very large Direct to Consumer (DtC) wine shipment numbers for March 2020 a bit further (as a result of Nielsen’s new partnership with Wines Vines Analytics in collaboration with Sovos ShipCompliant):

  • Reversing historical trends, volume grew faster than value, as the average price per bottle dropped compared to where it was last March.
  • Within California, there were large double digits increases from Sonoma and Central Coast wines, vs single digit increases from Napa wines. Napa average bottle prices dropped by close to $6 compared to last year.
  • Small wineries (those between 5K and 50K cases annually) experienced the largest increase in both percentage and absolute terms (March 2020 vs. March 2019) compared to both larger and even smaller wineries.

Since the week ending March 7, 2020 through April 18, 2020, alcohol e-commerce retail sales have more than doubled vs. one year ago (+234%), and they have increased almost five-fold in just the latest two weeks of that time period. Wine continues to be the largest by far, commanding almost 70% of online alcohol retail sales. (Source: Nielsen U.S.; Nielsen E-commerce measurement powered by Rakuten Intelligence) 

Nielsen COVID-19 general site: www.nielsen.com/covid-19

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