Frugality dominates US shoppers' alcohol plans - report

By Neil Merrett

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags: Alcoholic beverage

Alcohol’s ability to survive under difficult economic times has come into question amidst shifting consumer attitudes in the US to more value-focused offerings as opposed to their premium counterparts, says new research.

In a survey of 5,000 consumers across the US, analyst Nielsen suggests new findings have found that beer, wine and spirits sales will be affected by a growing frugality among the country’s consumers.

Aside from just staying at home more to enjoy a drink, the report suggests that half of the legal drink-age respondents surveyed are paying greater attention to value offerings when purchasing alcohol.

Danny Brager, vice president for the groups beverage alcohol arm, says that the reputation of beers, wines and spirits as ‘recession proof’ items was under threat by changing dining and shopping habits.

“Consumers are clearly focused on value and in many cases, altering their shopping behaviour in order to get the most for their money,”​ states Brager. “It remains to be seen if these changes are temporary or exactly how long the ‘economic hangover’ will last once we come out of recession.”

Nielsen suggests that this potential shift in US drink demand is reflective of wider changes taking place in the overall retail environment.

The analyst says 42 per cent of respondents surveyed for the findings are looking for larger pack sizes, while 23 per cent of respondents wish to stick with so called ‘tried and true’ brands and products.

“Many of these general shopping behaviours translate to what we are seeing today with respect to alcoholic beverage purchases,”​ adds Brager.

With 50 per cent of the survey group claiming to be increasingly cost-focused in their alcohol purchasing, the analyst says more shoppers are comparing shelf prices and waiting to take advantages of special offers for their purchases.

“Value attracts consumer attention in this economy, and sales and special offers can be an effective way of getting people into the store or to try a new brand,”​ says Brager.

“With consumers’ actively comparing shelf prices, alcohol beverage suppliers need to ensure that they have their products priced right compared to the competition.”

Despite potential concerns on current consumer spending for alcohol products, Nielsen suggests a possible longer-term change in attitudes should be expected.

Even after the possible lift of the current economic downturn, 75 per cent of respondents for the report suggest they will not be changing their attitudes to buying.

Should economic stability improve, 24 per cent say they would increase spending on wine, 21 per cent will purchase more spirits and 18 per cent will consider buying more beer.

Brager states this trend appears to be most prevalent at the on-trade bar segment, throwing up major challenges for pub and club sales of alcohol in the US.

“The biggest opportunity for alcohol beverage suppliers and retailers today is around ‘the home’ and based on what consumers are telling us, the home will remain the strongest venue when the economy recovers,” ​he states.

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