Happy hour at home

Natural Alcohol Trends: 3 Ways Shoppers Are Changing Happy Hour in 2021

The Better-for-You Alcohol Trend

Anyone who enjoys a nice drink has found themselves unable to enjoy their favorite bars and restaurants for most of the last year. That’s probably why we’ve seen record-setting sales of alcoholic beverages as well as alcohol-free alternatives.

However, as we’ve seen with many popular foods and beverages over the last year, shoppers still have their minds on health and wellness. Even an indulgence like a ready-to-drink cocktail doesn’t have to derail dietary goals—and some even offer wellness benefits.

DEEP DIVE: Natural Alcohol Trends

Calories in Alcohol Matter (Even When Drinking on the Couch)

Alcoholic beverages don’t always have nutrition labels on their packaging, but manufacturers might want to rethink that. Shoppers grabbed a variety of low-calorie, ready-to-go drinks in big numbers over the last year. Year-over-year sales were strong for drinks light on calories. Hard seltzers, hard kombuchas, and beers that are under 100 calories per serving saw strong—sometimes staggering—growth.

Barefoot hard seltzer is a front runner in today's natural alcohol trends
Hard seltzers & Other Malt Bev +11,100%

Single-Serving Alcoholic Beverages (That Aren’t Beer) Are Driving Growth

Popping open a nice cold alcoholic drink is usually associated with beer, but it’s not the only offering on shelves. Cider and seltzer are gaining attention from customers who are looking for a convenient drink but aren’t in the mood for (or maybe are even allergic to) beer. Sales for single-serving drinks that aren’t beer are up across all channels. For example, hard cider and mead and other malt beverages grew:

Specialty and Natural Enhanced Channel
Multi Outlet Channel
Regional Grocery Channel

In each of these channels, those products show stronger growth than the overall alcohol department.

On-the-Go Cocktails Step in for Mixologists

Having a drink at a bar or restaurant isn’t all about the socializing; the drinks are just better. Unfortunately, during lockdown, shoppers had to be their own mixologists. Not everyone has the skills to make a great drink, and plenty of people just don’t want to stock the liquor, mixers, and bitters for their favorite cocktail. That’s where on-the-go-cocktails come in handy.

Ready-to-drink cocktails once had a reputation for being inferior substitutes, but brands have stepped up their offering in recent years. For shoppers who aren’t keen on wine, beer, or hard seltzers, there are now a variety of new flavors to choose from: gin and lemonade, rum and cola, Mai Tai, and more.

Cutwater ready-to-go cocktails see a jump in today's natural alcohol trends
2021 will see a surge in ready-to-drink cocktails
New Holland Blueberry Gin Lemonade sees growth in 2021 natural alcohol trends
A wide variety of flavors satisfy more consumers

How to Use Natural Alcohol Trends to Innovate

So now that you have these insights, what can you do?

In using SPINS reporting, consider using the SPINS NFP calorie and brand positioning attributes to highlight natural and specialty brands as well as lower-calorie options, especially for RTD in the non-BEER category.

For retailers, this will identify new opportunities to meet consumer demand with unique flavor profiles and expanded product offerings. 

For Brands, it's a way to view more complete competitive sets giving them insight into how to position the unique aspects of their products. 

In conclusion, make sure you’re offering great-tasting drink options that don’t sacrifice taste. Shoppers might want fewer calories but they still want plenty of flavors. Emerging brands are popping up all the time, and you don’t want to be left behind as the market continues to expand. Keep innovating and finding ways to reach this growing segment of consumers who are open to trying new drinks that suit their lifestyle.


Themes for 2021:
Natural Alcohol Trends

Inside the report:

  • Low calorie product introductions paying off big
  • Emerging Brands driving growth
  • Mixed RTDs see massive surge

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