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Alcohol Sales Sees Strongest One Week Growth Since First Week of Pandemic Lockdown

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nielsenNielsen Beverage Alcohol Practice reports that total alcohol sales the week ending 5/2/20 represented the strongest growth rate for alcohol since the peak pantry-loading week of 3/21/20. Total off premise alcohol dollar sales in Nielsen measured channels increased +32.0%.

  • Wine dollar sales are at +35.8% year over year (-0.1% vs. prior week). Spirits, yet again, led growth in Nielsen U.S. measured off-premise channels, at +38.6% (and +4.7% vs. the prior week), with beer/FMB/cider at +28.1% (+6.3% vs. prior week). Beer specifically is +18.6% (+5.7% vs. prior week).
  • That’s now 3 weeks since the beginning of March with weekly sales growth for wine above +30% (with 3 other weeks where growth was between +28% and +30%).
  • Evidence of the impact of warmer weather is reflected in the uptick of white wine growth. This week, white wine’s growth rate vs. a year ago was 5 percentage points higher than its growth we saw last week.
  • And while celebrations in the midst of the current environment are likely different in nature than pre-COVID, French Champagne had one of its best weeks for growth, up +22% vs year ago, compared to other recent weeks of no to low growth.    
  • Consistent with several prior weeks, wines (in glass bottles) in the $20-$25 range led others in growth, with $11-$15 and then $15-$20 price tiers just behind, in that order. 
  • Further evidence of rising retail pricing is found in our examination of the top 100 wine selling SKUs in Nielsen measured channels. Over 90% of those items were selling at a higher price in the 4 weeks ending 4/18/20 than they were a year ago at the same point in time, and about 75% were selling a higher price than the 4 weeks towards the end of February. 

For the latest nine-week timeframe when COVID-19 heavily impacted consumer behavior (from the week ending 3/7/20 through the week ending 5/2/20), wine is +30.1% in dollar sales.

Nielsen estimates that total alcohol needs to maintain at least 22% volume sales growth rates on average in off-premise channels in order to make up for the losses in the on premise. As the on premise begins to emerge from lockdown, that number will change.

  • For the COVID-19 period to date (from the week ending 3/7/20 through the week ending 5/2/20), wine is +27.5% in volume sales within the U.S. off-premise vs. one year prior.

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

“This week’s strong growth is likely partially due to some pre-Cinco de Mayo related consumer purchasing as an ‘extra’ boost to off-premise sales, whereas last year many of those celebrations were on-premise (within bars, restaurants, etc.). That said, perhaps warmer weather in many parts of the country, coupled with some ‘indoor fatigue and monotony,’ also contributed – driving more people outdoors, and leading to more drinking occasions (and related higher sales activity). Everyone is finding their own unique ways to ‘celebrate’.”

Overview: Nielsen COVID-19 insights and analysis

Nielsen CGA: COVID-19: Measuring the On Premise Impact

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