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Summer Libation Opportunities Go Beyond Beer

NEW YORK — Summertime staples include baseball, barbecues and beer, but the warmer temperatures do more than just boost traditional brew sales in the obvious locations, according to research from Nielsen.

Seasonality is a major factor in what Americans will drink this summer and where they will be drinking. Ninety percent of regular drinkers who plan to drink this summer say they drink outdoors. The most popular outdoor venue is a barbecue, where 65 percent of Americans who plan to drink alcohol this summer say they will do so. Other popular outdoor settings for drinking include picnics, beaches, patios, festivals, pools, sporting events and concerts.

Summer also has a significant upside for certain beverages, according to a recent Nielsen survey conducted by Harris Poll. In addition to vendors of traditional ales and lagers, this summer should be a fruitful season for retailers offering non-traditional beverages. The survey found that 47 percent of consumers are more likely to drink malt beverages this summer, vs. other times of the year, while 34 percent are more likely to drink hard cider. 

Consumers are also more likely to drink hard sodas and the newer hard seltzer segment. Additionally, Rose' wines are preferred more in the summer by 20 percent of regular wine drinkers, but nearly 40 percent by women ages 21-34.

Of the qualities Americans look for when selecting an alcoholic beverage in the summer, "refreshing" is the No. 1 attribute by far at 61 percent for men and 64 percent for women. Meanwhile, qualities such as "natural" and "handcrafted" resonate more strongly with men, while those such as "fruity," "sweet," "citrusy," "frozen" and "bubbly" are more popular among women.

Along with marketing campaigns, social media is increasingly becoming an influence on alcohol purchases, the survey found. A quarter of U.S. adults ages 21 and over say that seeing pictures of what other people are drinking on social media often influences what they choose to drink, and that percentage rises to 45 percent when restricted to adults ages 21-34. Forty-two percent of this demographic also likes to post pictures of their drinks on social media, which is sharply above the 25-percent average for all drinkers.

Another area of consideration for summertime drinking is packaging. In hot weather, consumers are extra interested in packaging's ability to keep a beverage cold, with portability as another top consideration. They also want to buy beverages already cold; 42 percent of Americans consider doing so to be highly important, while another 24 percent say it is at least somewhat important.

Additionally when it comes to packaging:

  • 73 percent say that packaging options that are easy to carry are important to them;
  • 49 percent say that single-serve packaging is at least somewhat important; and
  • 53 percent say that environmentally friendly packaging is of some importance. These factors are even more highly important to younger millennials of legal drinking age.

This is where cans come into play, according to Nielsen. While cans are typical among soda and traditional beer brands, cans are growing in the craft beer segment. Cans increased 51.4 percent on a year-over-year basis in the 52 weeks ending June 18, and now account for 14.3 percent of total craft beer dollar sales.

Wine in cans is also growing in popularity, posting 125.2 percent dollar sales growth during the same time period, with total sales of $14.5 million, up from $6.4 million the previous year. The addition of several new canned wines in the marketplace adds to established alternative packaging for wine, such as boxed and small cartons, which is an established and growing base that offers elements of convenience and portability, according to Nielsen.

Although canned wine represents less than 1 percent of the overall wine market, its potential should not be minimized, as wine in boxes and cartons represents more than 8 percent of table wine store sales dollars today, and just under 20 percent of table wine volume, the research firm added.

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