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NEW YORK – Alcohol sales have increased in both volume and value compared to last year, but beverage preferences vary among consumers by generation and market share of beer, wine and spirits is shifting, according to Nielsen research.
Millennials and Generation X are driving the trend of beer losing some of its off-premise market share to wine and spirits during the last decade, according to the report. These consumers are increasingly purchasing such products at grocery, drug, club and liquor stores. Off-premise spending by Boomers has stayed fairly flat, marking one of multiple key differences between generations' occasions, motivators, product preferences and influences when purchasing alcohol.
According to a recent Nielsen survey covering four generations –- Millennials (ages 21-36), Gen X (37-48), Baby Boomers (49-67) and the Greatest Generation (68 and up) –- beer is still the most popular beverage, with more than 50 percent of respondents having purchased it during the last three months. This is the highest percentage for all alcohol categories.
Key beer preferences and influences, such as "make my choice regardless of others," "delicious and smooth taste" and "refreshing," are consistent throughout all age groups, Nielsen said. Additionally, all generations are increasingly shifting toward above-premium and craft beers from below-premium and premium beers.
Millennials, in particular, are strong consumers of craft beer, with this segment making up more than 15 percent of their total off-premise beer spending. Generation X and Boomers are also spending more dollars on craft beer, accounting for slightly less than 10 percent of older generations' beer spending.
Millennials tend to do more social beer drinking, and do so more often during outdoor and holiday occasions. Generation X consumers report drinking beer at large parties and after-work events. Both Boomers and Generation X say television and print ads have an effect on their retail decision-making -- more so than Millennials, who cite online postings and in-store tastings as having an effect.
Meanwhile, spirits continue to gain off-premise volume and value share. Whiskey especially has been increasing in popularity across all generations.
However, generations have differing favorites in the spirits segment. Millennials favor both flavored and unflavored vodka, while Generation X has increased its share of rum. Boomers have increased spending on vodka and tequila.
More than 20 percent of Millennials say they consume four out of six spirit segments in the survey (vodka, rum, whiskey and tequila), while a similar percentage of Generation X claims to only consume vodka and rum.
While Millennials are most likely to drink for social reasons, Generation X is split 50/50 between social occasions and "only by myself," while even more Boomers drink by themselves, Nielsen found. Millennials and Boomers have similar habits when it comes to making purchases, with both agreeing that well-known and authentic brands are more important when it comes to spirits. Generation X is most influenced by recollection of advertising.
Consumers of all ages are willing to try new wines, but purchasing wine on sale is an important factor for Millennials. Generation X values variety in wine, and Boomers are influenced by word-of-mouth and products that are new and different.