With more U.S. consumers drinking at home due to pandemic shutdowns, it’s no surprise that online beer sales and delivery have seen a banner year. Online sales for the beer, flavored malt beverage (FMB), and cider category jumped more than 184 percent year-over-year (YoY) for the 52 weeks ended July 31, according to Nielsen, including sales at off-premise retailers and online platforms. 

As on-demand beer sales continue to rise and the fall sports season begins, it’s important for retailers to stock the styles and brands consumers are looking for in the months ahead. 

With the NFL season and ongoing Covid-19 restrictions, “more consumers will be watching the game at home instead of from the stadium or a sports bar,” says Liz Paquette, head of consumer insights. “Historically, the NFL season has driven sales spikes on Drizly, particularly in the beer category, and this year we expect increases to be even more dramatic.”

With the help of Drizly data and insights, liquor store owners can capitalize on beer buying trends to optimize their sales in the coming months.

Top-Selling SKUs and Brands

When deciding which beers to stock, start by looking at Drizly’s top-selling products. The platform’s 20 best-selling SKUs, year-to-date, are:

1. White Claw Hard Seltzer Variety Pack
2. Bud Light
3. Coors Light Lager Beer
4. Miller Lite Lager Beer
5. Corona Extra
6. Michelob ULTRA
7. White Claw Hard Seltzer Variety Pack Flavor Collection No. 2
8. Stella Artois
9. Modelo Especial
10. White Claw Black Cherry Hard Seltzer
11. Budweiser
12. Truly Hard Seltzer Berry Mix Pack 
13. Corona Light
14. Lagunitas IPA
15. Bud Light Seltzer Variety Pack
16. Heineken Lager
17. Blue Moon Belgian White Wheat Beer
18. White Claw Mango Hard Seltzer
19. Truly Lemonade Hard Seltzer Mix Pack
20. Guinness Draught

Up-and-comers should also be on retailers’ radars. Drizly’s five fastest-growing brands in the category include the Mighty Squirrel Brewing Co. from Massachusetts, Sloop Brewing Co. from New York, Offshoot Beer Co. from California, Schilling Cider from Washington, and Pizza Port Brewing Co. from California.

Likewise, it’s important to tap into regional trends. “At the market level, local beer brands often hold significant share among the top sellers in their region,” Paquette says. 

For example, in Denver, Odell Brewing Co. and Upslope Brewing are among the Top 10 best-selling brands, while in New York City, Sixpoint Brewery, Montauk Brewing Co., and Brooklyn Brewery are top sellers. Austin’s Top 10 beer brands include Austin Beerworks, Austin Eastciders, and Lone Star Brewing Co., while Boston’s features Night Shift Brewing, Lord Hobo Brewing Co., and Downeast Cider House. In San Francisco, Fort Point Beer Co. and Golden State Cider are among the top sellers.

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Top Styles to Stock

In addition to carrying sought-after brands, store owners should stock a range of styles. “In past years, light lager consistently held the top share position within beer subcategories, but in 2020, it was overtaken by hard seltzer,” says Paquette, “It appears that some consumers who previously chose light lager as a low-calorie option are swapping it out for seltzer.”

Following hard seltzer in the top position, light lager, IPA, American-style lager, and pale lager are Drizly’s top-selling beer styles. While hard seltzer is expected to hold onto its lead, the five fastest-growing beer subcategories include hard kombucha, stout, New England/hazy IPA, American strong ale, and doppelbock. 

To keep tabs on consumer favorites, Paquette recommends that retailers regularly check Drizly’s “Top-Selling Items I Don’t Carry” report, accessible to all of the platform’s partners via the DrizlyRetailer portal.

“Retailers can filter on the beer category to leverage real-time data on top-selling beer SKUs in their market and nationally, highlighting those which they currently don’t stock,” she says. “Store managers can then use this data to optimize their inventory strategy to align with consumer trends.”

Trends to Watch

In the next few years, Paquette says she expects to see an expansion of the hard seltzer subcategory, with craft breweries getting into the game. 

“With more than 8.2 percent YoY share growth in 2020, hard seltzer has proven that it’s here to stay,” she says. “As new brands continue to enter the category and share becomes more fragmented, we foresee a similar trend to what we’ve seen in other beer subcategories, in which regional brands take share in their local markets.” For example, the collaboration between Boston’s Harpoon Brewing and Polar Seltzer to create the hot-selling Arctic Summer line of spiked seltzers.

Paquette also predicts that other alternative beer categories such as hard lemonade may piggyback on seltzer’s success. The subcategory has grown more than 59 percent YoY, and accounts for a 1 percent share of the beer category. 

“Truly’s carryover from hard seltzer to hard lemonade is a great example, along with Crook & Marker, which offers a spiked lemonade,” she says. Both brands are among Drizly’s top five hard lemonade brands, along with Mike’s Hard Lemonade, Mike’s Harder Lemonade, and Sons of Liberty. 

While hard kombucha accounts for just 0.3 percent total share of the beer category, it is the platform’s fastest-growing beer subcategory with 1,240 percent YoY share growth. Not only that, the number of brands selling on Drizly has doubled in the past year. Currently, JuneShine, Boochcraft, and Flying Embers are the platform’s top three brands. 

New England/hazy IPA is another style to watch. With Sierra Nevada, Lord Hobo, Lawson’s Finest Liquids, Mighty Squirrel, and Night Shift as Drizly’s top-selling brands, New England/hazy IPA’s market share has increased YoY from 2.6 percent to 4.7 percent.