10 Intoxicating Insights about Alcohol Consumption [Survey]
In 2013 alone, U.S. beer shipments—an important indicator of consumption—totaled approximately 6.6 billion gallons, or about 27.6 gallons per drinking-age adult.
And that’s not even including other alcoholic beverages—wine and spirits, for instance.
With alcohol purchases accounting for so much retail activity, Field Agent set out to understand the drinking preferences and behavior of 500 U.S. adults (over 21; average age = 40), divided evenly between men and women. We screened our extensive panel of 700,000 U.S. Agents to locate self-identified adult-age drinkers.
Below we distill 10 intoxicating insights from this study.
We also demonstrate how Field Agent serves the beer, wine, and spirits industries with location-specific information and insights. As the features depict, Agents were dispatched to restaurants, bars, stores, and homes to capture photos of everything from in-store beer displays to in-home liquor cabinets.
10 Insights into the Alcoholic Beverage Preferences and Behavior of U.S. Adults
1. Red, red wine tops the drink menu [UB40 would approve]
We presented respondents almost 20 different alcoholic beverages—from craft beer to brandy, champagne to moonshine. (No mixed drinks were included.) Agents were asked to identify every drink in which they at least occasionally partake.
At 64%, red wine accrued the most responses, while the following also received favor from at least half: vodka (62%), white wine (62%), beer (not light; 62%), rum (58%), craft beer (55%), light beer (52%), and tequila (51%).
2. The most common “alcoholic” beverages aren’t actually alcoholic
In addition to the alcoholic beverages above, respondents were also given the opportunity to select “non-alcoholic ingredients for making alcoholic beverages” they use at least occasionally.
Surprisingly, three non-alcoholic beverages—soda (80%), water/tonic water (70%), and fruit juice (66%)—actually bested beer, wine, and other alcoholic beverages. Coffee (64%) also made a strong showing.
Consequently, a company doesn’t have to be in the industry to be in alcoholic beverages.
3. Men go for beer; women reach for wine
Pop a top or uncork a bottle? On this, men and women may differ.
In our survey, men made beer (not light; 77%) and craft beer (68%) their alcoholic beverages of choice. Among women, however, white wine (70%) and red wine (64%) were most prevalent.
4. “I just need a vacation [and a drink]”
One objective of our survey was to understand when people drink beer, wine, and spirits.
We presented respondents with numerous possible drinking events—or times when they might enjoy a drink or two. The choices included sporting events, concerts, camping, air travel, holidays, and many other occasions (32 total). Respondents were asked to identify all the events when they normally have one or more alcoholic beverages.
At the top of the list, 77% said they usually enjoy at least one drink while on vacation, followed by grilling/barbecuing outdoors (74%). Among non-holiday events, dinner at a restaurant (72%), weddings (72%), weekends (66%), and birthdays (70%) were also popular drinking occasions.
5. Top holidays for a drink: New Year’s Eve, 4th of July, and Christmas Eve
Holidays, our survey confirmed, are also among the most prominent events for alcoholic beverages. Top among these: New Year’s Eve (72%), 4th of July (64%), Christmas Eve (52%), Thanksgiving (49%), and Memorial Day (46%).
Only 36% said they normally have a drink on Cinco de Mayo.
6. Restaurants are the premier retail channel for alcohol purchases
Where do consumers go for their beer, wine, and spirits?
We offered respondents eight choices, asking, “From which of these retailers/venues do you purchase alcohol?”
At 77%, restaurants amassed the most responses. As already seen, at dinnertime especially, restaurants are busy—very busy—filling the drink orders of American diners.
7. Drinkers prefer grocery stores, independent liquor stores
Among merchandising operations, grocery stores (73%) and independent liquor stores (73%) eclipsed even mass merchandisers (66%) as the preferred retailers among consumers for purchasing alcoholic beverages.
8. Party attendance is an important influence on alcohol consumption
The survey asked respondents whether they’re drinking more, less, or about the same as they were five years ago. Results were fairly split, with 27% drinking more, 35% drinking less, and 37% drinking about the same.
We followed up this question by asking consumers why their consumption levels have changed—that is, why they’re drinking more or less. In both cases, the top responses were fairly general. “I’m getting older” (54%) was the top reason claimed by those drinking less. Even among Millennials (i.e., 19-35 year olds), 48% cited "getting older"—that takes some nerve—as a major reason for scaling back. “I just enjoy it more” (66%) was #1 among those drinking more.
But it was interesting to note the role of party attendance on consumption levels. “I attend fewer parties” (48%) was the second highest reason for drinking less, while “I attend more parties” (41%) was the third highest reason for drinking more.
9. Alcohol intake will remain in a holding pattern for most drinkers, they say
We also asked respondents to gaze five years into the future. Will they be drinking more, less, or about the same?
They intend to preserve the status quo in most cases. Seventy-four percent said they expect to be drinking about the same in five years, compared to 20% who will be drinking less and 6% drinking more.
10. Point-of-purchase has power to influence alcohol purchases
The survey also explored several “trigger events” that cause consumers to at least occasionally purchase alcoholic beverages.
Apparently, in-store sales and discounts (61%) often serve as the impetus for alcohol purchases.
Shopper marketing may also hold significant sway over the spending of many drinkers. For instance, almost 40% identified “sampling/demos,” and 34% in-store displays/signage, as important trigger events for their alcohol purchases. Compare this to the 20% assigned advertisements/commercials.
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