It's a constant of life that people in their 20s do a disproportionate amount of the nation's drinking. The type of alcohol they consume is less of a constant, judging by a report from the Nielsen Co. (Adweek's parent company).
As the chart shows, beer gets less than half of 21-30-year-olds' spending on alcoholic beverages. As recently as 1997, people this age spent 59 percent of their drinks dollars on beer, with spirits getting 21 percent and wine 20 percent. The fact that beer retains a plurality of their outlays masks a further shift. Imports get 28 percent of their beer dollars; craft beers get 15 percent. Older drinkers allot 15 percent of their beer budgets to imports and 6 percent to craft brews.
The willingness of 21-30-year-olds to pay more for something special carries over to spirits. One example: Nearly half their spending on vodka goes for premium and ultra-premium brands, vs. less than one-third of older drinkers' vodka spending. As for wine, 21-30s are more apt than their elders to prefer reds. Red wine accounts for 51 percent of their wine purchases by volume. Though few claim to be very knowledgeable about wine, 34 percent are "interested in learning more." Vintners, take note!