Wine consumption falls for 1st time in 25 years as spiked seltzer sales skyrocket

Sales of beer and cider also declined in 2019.

January 14, 2020, 3:28 PM

For the first time in a quarter of a century, Americans are buying less wine -- apparently because they're drinking more spiked seltzer.

As U.S. wine purchases fell for the first time in 25 years, sales of ready-to-drink alcoholic beverages, including seltzers like White Claw and Truly, climbed nearly 50% in 2019, according to IWSR, an industry analyst group.

The ready-to-drink alcohol market reached $8 billion last year, and some forecasts have that market tripling by 2023.

Beer consumption in 2019 fell for the fourth straight year, by 2.3%, as cider consumption fell 3.8%. Distilled spirits saw a 2.3% increase.

The sum of alcohol sales rose slightly, by 0.3%, in 2019, generating about $167 billion, according to IWSR, which predicts another overall increase in 2020, as sales of liquor and hard seltzers and kombuchas may again rise.

PHOTO: Wine is pouted at Il Posto Accanto, a wine bar and trattoria in New York, Jan. 4, 2020.
Wine is pouted at Il Posto Accanto, a wine bar and trattoria in New York, Jan. 4, 2020.
Emon Hassan/The New York Times via Redux Pictures

"The beverage alcohol industry in the U.S. continued to innovate in 2019, especially in the ready-to-drink category, as the fight for consumption occasions intensified across all categories," Brandy Rand, IWSR's chief operating officer for the Americas said in a statement that accompanied the report. "It’s also interesting to note that the value increase of beverage alcohol in the U.S. continues to outpace volume growth, a clear indicator that U.S. consumers are willing to pay for more premium products."

Tariffs or potential tariffs appear to have little effect on Americans' spending habits when it comes to alcohol.

Other 2019 data shared by IWSR included a 4% rise in sales of craft beer, as low- or no-alcohol beer purchases climbed 6.6%. That's despite a 3.6% overall decline in demand for domestic beer.

"The beer industry producers are diversifying by entering new categories -- such as hard kombucha, hard seltzer, canned cocktails, and even spirits -- to meet growing consumer demand for bothconvenience and better-for-you beverages," Rand said.

Consumers also have embraced buying booze online, last year spending about $3 billion, a figure that's "expected to explode in the coming years," said Adam Rogers, the North America research director at IWSR said in a statement. "Clearly, beverage alcohol brands and retailers should have strong e-commerce strategies in place to profit from this important shift in consumer purchase preference."