The Booze Boom: Five Ways Consumer Behavior on Alcohol Has Shifted During the Coronavirus Pandemic

In a world of widespread lockdowns, people are stocking up on essentials— including alcohol! Whether people are trying to make the most of a difficult situation, they don’t want to be caught empty-handed during a virtual happy hour, or they’re improving their mixology skills in their newfound free time is uncertain, but the numbers don’t lie. Alcohol off-premise sales were up 55% for the third week of March compared to last year. Or to put it in the words of Quotient’s own Director of Adult Beverage Mitch Cristol, “March off-premise sales were robust!”

Along with the increase of in-store alcohol sales in March, brands are reporting a surge in alcohol eCommerce, engagement on social media, and philanthropic efforts to support local on-premise accounts and their staff.

Discover five ways consumers are lifting their spirits and bucking typical purchasing and behavioral trends during the Coronavirus outbreak.

1. Larger Case Sizes Lead the Pack

Across all categories, alcohol sales are booming. Compared to March of 2019 versus March 2020, Grocery Dive reports a 75% increase in spirits, 66% jump in wine, and a 42% boost in beer, flavored malt beverages, and ciders. As for spirit sales in the third week of March, consumer demand exploded for tequila (+90%), gin (+89%) and ready-made cocktails (+106%).

On top of sales increases, consumers are upgrading the amount they’re purchasing per visit. Twenty-four packs of beer saw a 90% increase compared to March of 2019 and 30 packs experienced an 87% jump.

2. eCommerce: Bringing the Party to People

As shoppers are minimizing their errand-running in an effort to flatten the curve, online alcohol sales are soaring. Fast Company reports that Wine Insiders’, one of the largest sources for wine online in the U.S., sales are more than 3X the amount they were before the COVID-19 pandemic. 

For Drizly, an online alcohol delivery platform, sales have climbed 60% over what they initially predicted for the crisis, and as of April 6th, their sales were more than 300% over their initial forecast.

Specialty mixer brands like Nickel and Dimes Cocktail Syrups’ report their sales up 400% through their DTC site.

3. Tipping Your Bartender and Other Philanthropic Efforts

As people are seeking online for activities to fill their time, they’re also searching for hope. According to a recent 4A’s report, fifty-six percent of consumers are happy to hear how brands are helping out communities in response to the coronavirus pandemic.

Many alcohol brands have addressed the current crisis, but brands like Guinness, Fireball, and Tito’s Handmade Vodka have taken their impact a step further by donating funds and physical supply chain resources.

For instance, Diageo’s Guinness committed to donate $500,000 to their community on St. Patrick’s Day. Other brands committed to making a difference during this time include Tito’s Handmade Vodka, which shared how they’re producing hand sanitizers in their distillery, and Fireball, who matched $400,000 to tip out-of-work bartenders. Other distributors have gone as far as donating their refrigerated trucks to grocery stores and food banks to store food.

Many brands are also launching their own funds to support out-of-work bartenders. For instance, the Boston Beer Company created a fund to provide immediate relief to restaurant and bar workers. The United States Bartenders Guild (USBG) Facebook page is also flooded with gratitude to brands donating to their COVID-19 Relief Campaign.

Companies recognize the current need and are eager to give back to brands, bars, and bartenders who have been there for them. These companies understand that without these communities, Adult Beverage would struggle to exist.

— Mitch Cristol, Quotient’s Director of Adult Beverage

Punch’s online stream, “Tip Your Bartender” has married engaging content with hyper-local direct relief efforts. Tip Your Bartender connects a professional bartender to viewers and teaches audiences how to whip up their own drinks at home while encouraging viewers to donate to a fund for idled workers on Venmo. Each of the 50 episodes fundraise in support of different closed bars across the U.S.

4. Social Engagement at a Distance

Across social media, consumers are responding well to brands making a difference right now, especially in adult beverage. In March, online users responded overwhelmingly positively to posts made by alcohol brands on their community efforts. Diageo’s Guinness philanthropic efforts awarded them most successful post by an alcohol brand for the month, with a single inspiring post garnering 82,219 responses. Tito’s Handmade Vodka and Fireball’s social posts on their philanthropic efforts engaged 31,487 and 24,450 responses. 

Alcoholic Drinks” experienced a 69% spike in social engagement from April 27, 2020 — May 10, 2020 compared to the same period last year. With consumers unable to go to their favorite bars and restaurants, many are looking to sharpen their at-home mixology skills.

— Quotient Internal Data (Ahalogy Muse, 4/27/20-5/10/20 compared to 4/27/19-5/10/19)

Beverage Daily reports social media engagement with alcohol brands increased by 326.51% this March compared to March 2019. Social Analytics firm ListenFirst reviewed 22 other industry verticals and noted that alcohol brands have seen the largest lift in social engagement during the outbreak. The second highest lift was seen in healthcare brands, which saw social engagement increase by 141.35% in March.

Overall, people are tailoring their social habits to fit online platforms. We have witnessed day to day drinking quickly transition to virtual platforms. Traditional happy hours are shifting to video call competitions to create the best drink, people are teaching friends and family members news recipes and pairing with bottles of wine, and online group games are being held with a drink in hand. 

5. Consumers are Mixing it Up with DIY Mixology

As shoppers move online to purchase alcohol, they’re also practicing new techniques and exploring new products like syrups, flavorings, and other add-ins. Bay Area artisanal mixer retailer Nickel Dime Cocktail Syrups reported a 75% increase in new customers for their unique flavored syrups.

Along with the willingness to explore new DIY concoctions, audiences are also engaging with new instructional content led by quarantined bartenders sharing the tricks of their trade. Tyler Zielinski, a bartender, bar consultant, and journalist, predicts that bartender-created content will continue on social platforms throughout this unprecedented time since it fills a creative void for professionals while keeping consumers entertained.

“People are looking for distractions during this time. In the adult community, a lot of distraction and entertainment comes from alcohol—whether that is learning how to make craft cocktails or sampling new wine and cheese pairings.”

— Mitch Cristol, Quotient’s Director of Adult Beverage

Our very own Social Influencer solution has recently inspired audiences to concoct various different cocktails. By sharing a variety of content and visual posts, our network of influencers has empowered audiences to craft their own drinks or experiment with food and alcohol pairings.

Rezel Kealoha partnered with Quotient’s Social Influencer solution, Ahalogy, to share her delicious drink, which features Canadian Ridge Canadian Whiskey.
Rezel Kealoha also inspired audiences with a variety of wine and cheese pairings.
The Pacific Standard shared her fruity and refreshing vodka mixed drink.

At Quotient, we understand that we all deserve a good drink and support right now. Planning ahead and tailoring campaigns to align with the landscape is particularly critical, so we will continue to serve by delivering education, insights, and strategic advice to all audiences that face new hurdles during this time.

Quotient can help brands provide value to shoppers during this unprecedented time. For further information, get in touch with our Adult Beverage team at [email protected] or reach out to your Quotient representative.

Sources:

  1. Grocery Dive, “Alcohol Sales Spike as Consumers Stockpile Amid COVID-19 Pandemic,” (April 2, 2020).
  2. Quotient Internal Insight from Mitch Cristol (April 14 — April 29).
  3. Fast Company “With Bars and Restaurants Closed, Boozing at Home is Booming,” (April 4, 2020).
  4. Marketing Dive“4As: 56% of Consumers Interested in Brands’ COVID-19 Initiatives,” (March 24, 2020).
  5. Beverage Daily “Social Engagement with Alcohol Brands Up 327% Following Coronavirus Donations,” (April 9, 2020).
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