IWSR: Wine consumption in U.S. declines for first time in 25 years; Tito’s upsets Smirnoff as #1 distilled spirit

For the first time in 25 years, total wine consumption in the U.S. decreased in 2019, posting a -0.9% volume loss versus 2018, according to preliminary figures released by IWSR Drinks Market Analysis.

For the fourth year in a row, beer volume in the U.S. was down (-2.3%), as was cider (-3.8%).

However, distilled spirits and ready-to-drink (RTD) products continued to post gains (+2.3% and +49.7%, respectively).

Despite decreases in the beer category, which represents the lion’s share of alcohol sold in the U.S., total beverage alcohol in the country posted volume growth of 0.3% in 2019 (reversing a previous decline), with a value reaching $167bn (up 2.5% from 2018).


Sparkling still shines

Sparkling wine grew almost 4% in the U.S. last year, but the larger still wine category dropped -1.5%, with the total wine category down -0.9%. The last volume loss in the category occurred in 1994, marking 24 years of growth before this most recent decline, and is attributed to changing generational habits.

Wine represents about 11% of the total beverage alcohol market in the U.S.


Change at the top

For the first time in over a decade, Smirnoff vodka is no longer the top-selling distilled spirit in America. Tito’s Handmade Vodka, which increased in volume by over 20% in 2019, is now #1.  (Vodka remains the largest spirit category by volume in the U.S.).

In total, spirits volume in the country grew by 2.3% last year, led by increases in mezcal (40%), Japanese whisky (23.1%), Irish whisky (8.6%), tequila (9.3%), U.S. whiskey (5.5%), and cognac (4%).

Ready-to-drink products are an $8bn industry in the U.S., with volume that grew by almost 50% in 2019, thanks in large part to the tremendous popularity of hard seltzers (brands such as White Claw and Truly), which represent 43% of the total RTD category. Hard seltzer volume is currently about 82.5m nine-liter cases and forecasted to triple by 2023.

Beer once again showed a decline in the U.S. in 2019 (-2.3%). However, craft beer consumption increased last year by 4.1%, and low/no alcohol beer posted a gain of 6.6%. Imported beer increased 3.1%, while domestic beer dropped -3.6%.