Nielsen: Alcohol Beverage Sales Strained

The alcoholic beverage category may suffer an economic hangover, according to new research released today by the Nielsen Company at the Nielsen’s Consumer 360 Conference.

While consumers aren’t necessarily going on the wagon, their consumption habits have changed significantly. With 56 percent of consumers dining in and 37 percent frequenting bars and clubs less often, buyers of alcoholic beverages now have an increased focus on value and price.

Half of consumers said they are actively seeking the best deals by comparing prices and taking advantage of sales and special deals, rather than making impulse purchases, per the survey of 5,000 consumers which was conducted last month. Almost a half of consumers (42 percent) buy in bulk.

Consumers are “altering their shopping behavior in order to get the most for their money,” said Danny Brager, vice president and group client director for beverage & alcohol at The Nielsen Company, in a statement. “Alcoholic beverage manufacturers and retailers would be well-served to focus on value, and provide products in a range of price categories, in order to appeal to the range of consumers, including many that are now financially-strapped.”

Other key findings:

*28 percent are buying domestic products over imported items, with 25 percent choosing to buy locally.

*About one-quarter (23 percent) of consumers are sticking to purchasing “tried and true” brands for ultimate value.

*When out at a restaurant or club, 24 percent of wine consumers are “trading down” for less expensive drink options, and about one-third of consumers are ordering fewer drinks. Overall, consumers have shown a restraint from purchasing top-shelf brands. 

Nielsen research also shows that spending on alcohol will be more restrained after the economic recovery. Only 24 percent of respondents anticipating that they will increase their spending on wine, 21 percent on spirits and 18 percent on beer.

The return to spending will most likely come from consumers aged 21-34, who are more likely to bounce back with economic optimism, than the Baby Boomer generation (ages 55 and older). They have experienced and endured similar downturns before and many are now focusing on saving for retirement.

“It remains to be seen if these changes are temporary or exactly how long the  ‘economic hangover’ will last once we come out of recession,” said Brager.