That’s according to new survey data from Consumer Edge Insight – polling 2,000+ US adults aged 21+ who drink any type of alcohol at least once a week or more – which also turned up the worrying suggestion that men and 21-27 year-old consumers are losing interest in beer.
The research group’s data – weighted to be representative of the US adult alcohol-drinking population – shows that men are turning instead to wine and spirits. In September 2013 51% named beer as their favorite alcoholic beverage, 18% wine, 27% spirits, 1% cider, 2% flavored malt beverages.
Rewind to September 2012 and the respective figures for this group were: 54% beer, 27% spirits, 16% wine, 1% cider and 3% flavored malt beverages.
Among another key beer-drinking demographic, 21-27 year-olds (men and women), surveyed in September 2013, spirits were the main beneficiary of the beer slump, while cider also posted small gains.
Premium lights under pressure
33% of this group named beer as their favorite alcoholic drink, 20% wine, 29% spirits, 4% cider and 14% flavored malt beverages; the year before saw 39% favor beer, 23% spirits and 3% cider – wine and malt beverage preferences were unchanged.
Aside from causing people to drink less alcohol overall, health concerns were also causing a shift in category consumption, Consumer Edge Insight found – with wine the major beneficiary.
This is because 61% of US alcohol drinkers surveyed believe that consuming wine occasionally is a healthy thing to do, while only 22% of drinkers feel the same about beer, and only 17% about spirits.
Discussing how premium lights fitted into this picture of declining beer preference, Consumer Edge notes that the segment’s popularity – with the highest consumption in US beer – shows “signs of cracking” with some consumers exiting the category since 27% (on the basis of June 2013 data) are tiring of the taste.
Flagship brands include Bud Light, Coors Light and Miller Light, but company president David Decker tells BeverageDaily.com: “They have a core consumer who will likely remain very loyal to these flagship brands, but in my opinion these brands are likely to continue to lose market share in the US”.
Reigniting core consumer demand
Decker attributes this to increasing numbers discovering the huge taste variety of craft beer brands “as well as the strong and more flavorful brand extensions from the big brewers themselves – Bud Light Lime-A-Rita, Bud Light Straw-ber-Rita, Budweiser Black Crown, the soon to be launched Miller Fortune, etc.”
Some of the brand extensions with a high proportion of female drinkers are fruit-flavored, with 37% of Bud Light Lime-a-Rita (the malt-based beverage is in fact a not so light 8% ABV) regular users female while the average beer brand is around 32%.
Decker said beer makers can reignite demand by mimicking spirits launches – namely via taste variety and the stories behind brands, “which creates…willingness to trade up and pay for more expensive brands”.
The analyst sees no reason why beer can’t profit from both these trends, given that small craft brewers are already riding the wave.
“The big brewers need to find ways to keep extending their flagship brands in ways that make them more appealing to people seeking a variety of taste experiences, like they’re doing, while at the same time launching or adding craft-like beer brands to their portfolio, which they’re also doing to a degree,” Decker says.
Big brewers should continue to push the envelope on pricing – given that many alcohol consumers are willing to pay a premium for higher quality brands and products – and combat beer’s image as an unhealthy drink.