Cocktail trends come and go: Cosmos, old fashions, sangria and even gin fizzes have all had their time in the spotlight.
But these concoctions typically dominated the bar and restaurant scenes. While convenience stores have always supplied the liquor, the bartending was done elsewhere. Rather, beer sales historically outperformed other alcohol categories in c-stores. Now, that could be changing.
“The biggest concern (for 2023) will be continued loss of traditional beer (sales), regulatory issues at the state level — such as excise tax equalization — and continued ethanol losses to spirits, more recently ready-to-drink (RTD) spirits,” said Brian Sudano, managing partner for Beverage Marketing Corp., a market research firm.
Indeed, premixed cocktails from Jack Daniels, Crown Royal and Dogfish posted triple-digit gains in both dollar and unit sales in 2022 per IRI, a Chicago-based market research firm. A few brands of spirits seltzers registered extraordinary sales data, too.
Meanwhile, Bud Light, Budweiser, Heineken and other familiar brew brands were dealt losses in c-store case sales for the same period, according to IRI. Most table wine lines were depressed too, with the exception of a few boxed options.
It seems the ability to pour out a favorite cocktail without becoming a mixologist appeals to a more diverse clientele than cracking open a beer. Market research indicates more women like the RTDs and younger consumers in general prefer spirits over beer and wine.
That said, regional influences affect a trend’s strength, and in some areas, beer remains the beverage of choice.
“We have a specific demographic in our stores that drive our beer sales, so there have been minimal shifts that we’ve seen,” said Kirk Jornlin, category manager for the Temple, Texas-based CEFCO, which runs 171 stores in four states. “However, we make it a point to stay on top of consumer shifts toward new and innovative products in the beer, wine and alcohol categories. If there is a new category or product that has potential to grow the overall category, we would consider bringing them in,” he added.
Currently, cost appears to be flattening beer sales too. Earlier this year, USA Today reported that during the last 13 weeks of 2022, retail beer prices rose over 7%, a steeper pace than what the market had been experiencing previously. According to the newspaper, Bud Light, Miller Lite and Coors Light incurred a 10% price increase. In contrast, wine price tags jumped 3% and spirits less than 2%.
Still, the onset of warm weather beckoning people outdoors for cookouts and gatherings could help the beer category get back on top with customers.