Beer and wine sales climbed at convenience stores during the pandemic, as customers turned to their local retailers for purchases as lockdowns and social distancing drew customers away from bars and restaurants. In 2021, that sales momentum is expected to continue.
“We haven’t had a flat year to date and don’t expect to start in 2021,” noted Mario Spina, CEO, The PRIDE Stores, which operates 15 locations in Illinois, with a 16th scheduled to open later this year in Indiana. “With the incremental growth every year, one-of-a-kind offerings — not just for beer/wine — and increased traffic due to COVID in 2020, our customer base has been loyal, consistent and growing.”
At U.S. c-stores, dollar sales for beer rose 13.7% and case sales grew 8.9% for the calendar year ending Dec. 27, 2020, according to market research firm IRI. Dollar sales of table wine were up 7.9%, while case sales for wine increased 5.5% for the same period.
At The PRIDE Stores, as consumers increased spending on beer and wine during the pandemic, they prioritized quality over quantity. “The $9.99 craft four-pack is becoming a thing of the past, replacing it with $14 to $18 options,” said Spina, adding that due to the increased cost of producing high-quality beers, the margins are similar to cheaper brews.
Many retailers have told CSD that large packs of beer, such as 15- or 18-packs of core items are selling well.
Looking ahead, as the pandemic subsides, alcoholic beverages are likely to be a go-to choice as customers look to reconnect and celebrate.
“Past Q2 of (2021), we expect to see more of the social events that consumers missed out on in 2020 to start coming back, from sports to barbecues to family and work celebrations,” said Mike Kostyo, trendologist, Datassential. These social gatherings are expected to be a big opportunity for beer, with many of the pre-COVID beer trends — like sour and coffee beers — returning to the forefront.
Wines to Watch
Datassential listed rosé as a summer trend to watch, not only in wine but also rosé-style beers and ciders. Sparkling wine can help customers celebrate the end of lockdowns, while canned wines and natural or biodynamic wines are also expected to trend upward, especially with young adult consumers.
Spina has found new opportunities in wine during the pandemic. As restaurants closed, The PRIDE Stores was able to purchase wine usually reserved for restaurant sales.
“Our customers were able to purchase and consume at their homes some great items in the higher level of price ranges and larger quantities than ever before,” he said. “Our wine sales have increased every year as more customers realize our inventory, and with more people eating in their houses versus dining out, we felt a pretty good increase in 2020, and we are positive it will continue through 2021.”