Americans are buying fewer beverages, but what purchases do they still make?

By Mary Ellen Shoup contact

- Last updated on GMT

The number of beverages per US consumer is slightly down, mainly due to shifting behaviorial patterns in at-home consumption. ©iStock/Antonio_Diaz
The number of beverages per US consumer is slightly down, mainly due to shifting behaviorial patterns in at-home consumption. ©iStock/Antonio_Diaz

Related tags: Bottled water, Drink, Soft drink, Coffee

The number of purchased beverages per person in the US is down, but Americans are still choosing to spend their money on coffee, soft drinks, iced tea, or bottled water when they do buy beverages, according to a recent report by market research firm NPD Group.

While the number of beverage purchases per person is down by 72 per person annually compared to a decade ago, consumers are still making about 1,100 beverage purchases per year (equal to three non-tap water drinks a day), NPD found.

So what types of beverages are US consumers still willing to spend money on and for what occasion? NPD Group’s tracking of US consumers’ eating and drinking behaviors revealed that at-home coffee brewing and bottled water purchases when dining out, among others, are keeping the number of beverages purchases in the US afloat.

At-home coffee brewing wins over young urban populations

The rising popularity of craft coffee has led to many US young adults (aged 18 and over) to make brew coffee at home using pour over cones, French presses, or vacuum brewers.

NPD found that millennials in particular are twice as likely as the baby boomer generation to use brew their coffee at home using “craft”​ methods.

“Millennials, who are driven by creativity and the desire for personalization, are attracted to craft coffee brewing because of the skill and challenge involved,”​ Joe Derochowski, executive director and home industry analyst at NPD, said.

“Craft coffee brewing enables them to participate in the experience of creating a perfect cup of coffee.”

Bottled water comes out on top

Bottled water, both still and sparkling, was identified as the top growing beverage category and most common purchase for consumers dining out or at home.

Servings of bottled plain and sparkling water ordered at restaurants and other foodservice outlets increased by 12% in the year ending February 2016, compared to the same period last year.  Case shipments of bottled water shipped from foodservice distributors to commercial and non-commercial foodservice outlets increased by 6% in in the same period compared to year ago.

According to NPD, the bottled water category was the only category to display a “meaningful increase in the past ten years” ​at home. There is also further opportunity for growth for bottled water, especially among children​.

While the bottled water category remains a strong segment, NPD vice president and food industry analyst, David Portalatin, said that Americans have also replaced much of their beverage purchases with tap water a habit that remains widespread today due to the habitual spending cutbacks made practiced during the recession, as well as environmental packaging concerns.

Still a spot for soda when dining out

The steady decline of carbonated soft drinks is well-document, but NPD points out that soda still holds its place as the number one beverage consumed at restaurants with roughly 18 million servings ordered in the US alone in the year ending February 2016.

Carbonated beverages also remain the second most consumer beverage at-home, after bottled water, according to NPD.

“Have no fear — beverages are very much a part of the American diet,”​ Portalatin added. 

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