Overall US alcohol consumption down despite spirits and wine growth

18 January, 2019 by Andy Young

Consumer trends in the United States alcohol market often lead what will happen in Australia and the latest figures from the IWSR show a fall in consumption, led by beer, while there was growth for wine and spirits.

The preliminary figures from the IWSR, leading source of data and analysis on the alcoholic beverage market, show that the total alcohol market in the US declined by -0.8 per cent in 2018. This equates to 3.345 billion nine-litre crates and mirrors the -0.7 per cent decline seen in 2017.


Beer, which still dominates the US alcohol market, was down -1.5 per cent to 2.62 billion nine-litre cases, but it was better news for wine, spirits and cider.

Distilled spirits were up 1.9 per cent, wine grew by 0.4 per cent and cider and mixed drinks turned round 2017 declines to post increases of 4.1 per cent and 6.1 per cent respectively.

Brandy Rand, IWSR’s US President and global Chief Marketing Officer, said: “Spirits and wine showed slight growth in 2018, but those category increases weren’t as high as previous years. It’s clear that Americans are drinking less overall, which is likely a result of the continued trend toward health and wellness.

“We’ve also seen for some time now that consumers aren’t necessarily loyal to just one category, which leads to less volume for individual brands. Also, the aging baby boomer population, the largest group of legal drinking age consumers, is contributing to slowed growth as well.”

The decline in beer volumes saw that category’s overall share of the market fall from 78.9 per cent in 2017 to 78.3 per cent in 2018. It was better news for craft beer which continued its upward trend, recording 4.7 per cent increase, with the IWSR noting there was “a continued rise in on-site consumption at breweries”.

It was positive news across the spirits category with whisky up 4.1 per cent, tequila up 8.5 per cent, Cognac/Armagnac up 5.6 per cent and brandy up 1.7 per cent. The IWSR said: “Yet the largest gain was in the fast-growing mezcal category, which saw an increase of 32.4 per cent, albeit from a relatively small base of 261,000 nine-litre cases.

The year also saw wine record its 24th consecutive year of growth, with still wine commanding 87.3 per cent of the total category. Sparkling wine saw growth of 4.3 per cent, and reflecting a trend again seen in Australia Prosecco led that growth up 11 per cent in the year.