A full year after the pandemic first began to transform consumer behavior, Drizly’s March 2021 sales data highlighted many of the changes that have occurred over the past year. Consumers remain reliant on e-commerce for beverage alcohol purchasing, and recent trends like ready-to-drink (RTD) cocktails, nonalcoholic drinks, and hard alternatives continue to grow. Explore these trends and more with five insights from Drizly’s March sales.

Inside March’s Fastest-Growing Subcategories

Ready-to-drink and better-for-you options drove subcategory growth in March, driven by continued innovation and new products. “What feels now like a constant on the fastest-growing categories list, ready-to-drink remained the fastest growing liquor category in March,” says Liz Paquette, Drizly’s head of consumer insights. New flavors are growing quickly within the category, including Mojito (like Cutwater Rum Mint Mojito and Five Drinks Mojito) and punch (like Bacardi Ready-to-Drink Rum Punch).

As major hard seltzer brands expand into hard alternatives, hard iced tea became one of the fastest-growing categories in March. White Claw released four hard iced tea seltzer flavors in March, following on the heels of Truly and Bud Light, driving sales spikes for the category. 

Consumers are also continuing to seek out nonalcoholic options, with nonalcoholic wine becoming the fastest-growing wine subcategory in March. Top-selling nonalcoholic wine brands include Ariel, Fre, and Gruvi.

Occasion Insights: St. Patrick’s Day

St. Patrick’s Day was the first holiday celebrated under lockdown last year, and despite loosened pandemic restrictions, St. Patrick’s Day 2021 indicates a significant and continued shift in how consumers mark occasions. The holiday’s sales on Drizly were 32 percent higher than they were last year, and 34 percent higher than the average of the previous four Wednesdays.

Both beer and liquor gained three percentage points each in share compared to March overall, largely favoring classic Irish drinks; Guinness Draught, Jameson Irish Whiskey, Baileys Irish Cream, and Guinness Extra Stout were all among the top five sellers on St. Patrick’s Day 2021. “Irish brands dominated the top-sellers even more so than last year, with many bars and restaurants still closed or restricted,” says Paquette. Tito’s Handmade Vodka, for instance, was the most-ordered item on St. Patrick’s Day 2020; it dropped to No. 3 this year.

Want to grow your retail business?

Get sales-driving data and insights in your inbox every week.

Consumer Insights: Unique Users Grow 

In March 2021, the number of unique users who ordered on Drizly was 42 percent higher than the number of unique users who ordered in March 2020, highlighting continued consumer reliance on online alcohol purchasing. 

“Despite the spike in order volume in March 2020 as the pandemic and lockdowns set in, the year-over-year growth in the users points to the lasting shift towards e-commerce in the beverage alcohol category,” says Paquette. This shift is not unique to beverage alcohol; consumers have adapted to ordering many consumer goods online over the past year, leading to continued growth for e-commerce.

Market Insights: Omaha, Nebraska

Since launching on Drizly at the end of last summer, Omaha, Nebraska has grown rapidly and was one of the platform’s fastest-growing markets in March. However, Omaha’s category share is unique, with both liquor and beer over-indexing. Liquor holds 51 percent of share in Omaha (compared to 44 percent nationally) and beer holds 23 percent of share in Omaha (compared to 16 percent nationally). Extras also hold above-average share in the market (four percent compared to two percent nationally), while wine holds below-average share (22 percent compared to 37 percent nationally).

March’s Breakout Brands

Some of the trends spurring subcategory growth last month also spilled over into brand breakouts, particularly in the beer and liquor categories. Athletic Brewing Company, a nonalcoholic, all-natural beer brand, was the fastest-growing beer brand on Drizly in March, while hard kombucha brand JuneShine and hard seltzer brand Press Spiked Seltzer also experienced breakout growth.

Consumers were reaching for high-end Champagne brands in March, with both Krug and Armand de Brignac seeing breakout growth. The latter was spurred by Jay-Z’s sale of the brand to LVMH, making it the fastest-growing wine brand on Drizly last month. Within the liquor category, RTD brands The Long Drink Company, On the Rocks, and Buzz Ball all experienced breakout growth. “Interestingly, both On the Rocks and Buzz Ball are alternate packaging RTDs, compared to the popular canned, single-serve packaging,” says Paquette. Gray Whale Gin — a California-based botanical gin — was also a fast-growing liquor brand, illustrating the continued momentum for gin.