Whiskey and coke; soft drink sales

Soft drink & wellness can coexist in the alcohol space

February 11, 2020
By Alana House

Given the growing health and wellness movement among consumers, you’d think that soft drink sales would be would suffering.

But Nielsen has revealed the opposite is happening in the US, particularly in the alcoholic beverage space.

“Amid the juxtaposition of the sober-curious consumers and the premium spirits drinkers, soft drinks have plenty of room to grow,” the data and insights specialist noted.

For example, one-in-five (21%) US consumers participated in Dry January in 2019. And soft drinks were the most popular option, as nearly half (46%) consumed them, followed by water (43%).

Social moderation and health and wellness, however, are not limited to January, and the year-round lifestyle provides retailers and restaurants with a huge opportunity to grow soft drinks sales.

In the US, non-alcoholic beverages are worth $7 billion more than just four years ago, and $3.2 billion more in the last year alone.

Whether at home or at restaurants and bars, soft drinks are performing well—55% of US consumers enjoy soft drinks when eating and drinking out, and US retail sales experienced 2.9% growth in the past year.

Nielsen noted: “And as soft drink manufacturers and brands continue to evolve meet healthier lifestyles (with reduced-sugar, healthier and premium options), the opportunity to effectively and strategically engage both the regular and occasional abstainers will continue to grow.”

Spirits drinkers eye premium mixers

But it’s not just the abstainers driving soft drinks forward; spirit drinkers are playing a big part too.

Spirits are performing better than beer or wine, posting 5.7% sales growth at US retail in the last year. They’re also the biggest category in several key channels in the on-premise alcoholic beverage space.

“Different spirits demand different mixers, and spirit drinkers are willing to explore mixer variations depending on the spirit on offer, ranging from soda to fruit juice,” Nielsen said.

“In the US on-premise market, vodka and whiskey are the biggest revenue drivers for spirits, as 20% of survey consumers drink vodka and 17% drink whiskey. Club soda and cola are among the favorites for mixer pairings.

“In the off-premise realm, some non-alcoholic mixers are performing well at retail; cola sales are up 2.2%, club soda sales are up 7.1%, but beverages like orange juice (down 6.3%) and cranberry juice (down 5.8%) have some ground to make up.” 

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