Multicultural Consumers Hold Key to Alcoholic Beverage Industry

NEW YORK — Though the preferences may differ, multicultural U.S. consumers are a key target for the alcoholic beverages industry.

According to The Nielsen Co., many of this 120-million-plus demographic is the growing millennial contingent which comprises 40 percent of the population. Overall, estimated expenditures for both African-Americans and Asian-Americans in the alcoholic beverage space (up 6.6 percent and 10.2 percent, respectively) eclipse the category rate (up 3.7 percent) by several points.

According to Nielsen, African-American consumers prefer to spend the majority of their alcoholic beverage dollars on spirits. Vodka has shown the strongest growth among the group, with these consumers 14 percent more likely than the general population to have consumed the drink within the last month.

In addition, African-Americans are buying more gin, bourbon, brandy and cognac.

When it comes to retailers, African-Americans tend to buy alcoholic drinks from small operators, such as independent liquor stores or convenience stores (where relevant), or social spaces (stadiums, night clubs, etc.). They are less likely to purchase spirits in grocery and club stores, according to the market research company.

Hispanic consumers, however, embrace beer. This consumer group gives a greater share of their wallet to beer than do other multicultural consumers. In fact, 44 percent of Hispanic adults claim to have consumed a beer within the last 30 days, slightly above the U.S. average.

Hispanics prefer domestic light beers and imported beers, with brands in those segments receiving more than their fair share of Hispanic dollars, Nielsen said.

Among multicultural groups, Asian-Americans are the most engaged across the whole beverage alcohol industry and they value variety, according to Nielsen.

More than 40 percent of Asian-American adults have consumed or purchased a bottle of wine, spirits or beer in the past month. In the spirits category, Asian-Americans consume whiskey more frequently during a month than other spirits. They are also more likely to buy premium-priced wine, highlighting their preference for quality.

Nielsen also found that, within these categories, multicultural consumer groups have flavor preferences that influence their choices.

African-American and Hispanic consumers tend to prefer products with sweeter notes. In the hopes of appealing to them, many alcoholic beverage producers (particularly spirits suppliers) are expanding their flavor offerings to include sweeter or fruitier variations.

Based on recent sales trends in measured channels, this strategy seems to be paying dividends and affecting the look of the entire industry, Nielsen added.

While spirits sales grew at a rate of 5.9 percent across mainstream retail (grocery stores, mass merchandisers and other non-specialty retailers), flavored spirits eclipsed that rate by nearly three points. This, coupled with the continued presence of ciders and the arrival of "hard sodas," points to a demand for more flavor.

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