Largest increase in alcohol consumption in the United States in almost two decades

In 2020, beverage alcohol consumption in the US saw the largest volume gain in nearly 20 years.

According to new findings from IWSR Drinks Market Analysis, total beverage alcohol consumption increased by 2% in 2020, the largest volume gain since 2002.

The increases were driven by consumer demand for flavoured and better-for-you options, convenience, and the increase in at-home drinking occasions.

“A key driver of US beverage alcohol consumption is flavour,” said Brand Rand, IWSR’s chief operating officer of the Americas.

“Flavoured subcategories – from beer to vodka to US whiskey – are significantly outperforming traditional non-flavoured sub-categories. Flavour is also the top consumer driver of the fast-growing ready-to-drink category, and that’s likely creating a halo effect on total alcohol as well.”

The year-to-date 2021 performance is still higher than 2019 and expected to end at 3.8% growth in volume and a 5.5% increase in value.

As normal service resumes over the next five years, this growth rate is forecasted to slow with 0.5% volume growth and 2.8% value CAGR, 2020-2025.

The spirits category posted a 4.6% volume growth, the largest increase since 1990.

Within the category, agave spirits grew by 15.9% volume, overtaking rum to be the third-largest spirits category in the US, behind vodka and whisky.

Single malt Scotch, the victim of punitive tariffs, decreased by 6.1% in volume, and Irish whiskey fell by 0.5% volume, a result of the on-trade closures. 2020 marks the first year that both sub-categories posted declines.

Despite these losses, total whisky volumes grew by 4.9%, led by Japanese, Indian and US whiskies, and the category is forecasted to overtake vodka in volume consumption by 2022.

The RTD category grew by 62.3% in 2020, led by the hard seltzers sub-category, which grew by 130%. The category is set to become the second-largest beverage alcohol category in the US, in terms of volume consumption, already more sizeable than spirits and set to surpass wine by the end of 2021.

This performance is expected to be sustained, the IWSR expects RTDs to grow to account for a 22% volume share of total beverage alcohol by 2025 (up from 9.6% share currently).

Driven by domestic brand losses of 4.4%, beer continued annual volume declines with a 2.8% loss in 2020. However, volume gains in imported beer (3.1%), flavoured beer (10.4%) and no and low alcohol beer (23.6% CAGR, 2021 to 2025) are a saving grace for the category.