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Which Adult Beverages Will Grocery Shoppers Purchase for the Holidays?

Low-ABV drinks and RTD cocktails emerge as popular categories this festive season
Lynn Petrak, Progressive Grocer
Catalina bar cart
(Source: Catalina, 2022)

Consumers toasting to a festive holiday may be raising something different this year. New insights from Catalina show that premixed cocktails and low-alcohol wines top the list of adult beverages that hosts will be serving over the next several weeks.

According to the shopper intelligence firm, these kinds of drinks are garnering buzz as other over-21 beverages are declining in popularity heading into the biggest celebratory time of the year. Catalina’s data revealed a 35% increase in purchases of low-alcohol and better-for-you wines in the recently concluded third quarter of 2022 compared to the same period in 2021. Premixed cocktails, including a variety of ready-to-drink items, are up a similarly impressive 29%.

[Read more: "How Retailers Can Help Lift Holiday ‘Spirits’"]

On the flip side, one more recent party darling – hard seltzers – are down by 29%. Also dropping out of favor in late 2022: canned wine (-27%), spirits (-6%), wine (-5%), cider (-4%) and champagne/sherry/vermouth (-3%). Beers are staying steady in demand, as both imported and domestic beer purchases edged 3% higher in the third quarter and craft beer sales climbed 6%. Flavored malt beverages grew 4%.

While the gloomier macroeconomic outlook is expected to take a bite out of some seasonal celebrations, Catalina’s data indicated that adult beverage prices are rising at a lower rate than general inflation. The numbers show that prices are up between a range of 1% and 8%.

Retailers and CPGs can use these insights to optimize adult beverage sales over the holidays, noted Catalina’s Chief Data and Analytics Officer Sean Murphy. “Knowing what shoppers are more likely to put into their baskets this holiday season allows us to identify and better segment 1,700-plus syndicated and custom audiences, which in turn helps our retail and CPG customers develop personalized messaging and incentives in real time that trigger incremental sales,” he asserted.

Grocers can also look ahead to the selling season that rapidly follows the indulgent period between Thanksgiving and New Year’s Eve. Food and drink research company CGA reported that more than a third – 35% – of adults in the United States took part in “Dry January” in 2022 up from the previous high of 21% in 2019. Tapping into that movement, which aligns with rising interest in low-alcohol lifestyles, several companies are launching new products, like the non-alcoholic sparkling beverage Hop Wtr and Ritual Zero Proof, among others.

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