The Covid-19 pandemic continued to impact the beverage alcohol industry in 2021 as consumers and retailers adapted to the “new normal.” Though some pandemic-inspired behaviors — such as stocking up and in-home cocktail making — have slowed in response to reopening, the Drizly team expects that consumer adoption of e-commerce and on-demand delivery for alcohol purchases will remain strong in 2022. 

“Now that alcohol e-commerce has become more mainstream, the focus will shift to improve the consumer experience,” says Cory Rellas, the CEO of Drizly. “This could mean personalization for customers based on the categories and types of products they typically shop for, as well as more information becoming readily available about new products and innovations.”

From evolving consumer technology to categories on the rise, these are our top predictions for beverage alcohol in 2022.

Tequila Will Challenge Vodka as Drizly’s 2nd Best-Selling Spirit

The tequila category continued its growth spurt in 2021 and the trend is likely to accelerate in the coming year. “Tequila has the potential to close in on vodka as the second top-selling spirit on Drizly,” says Rellas, “perhaps even surpassing it.” 

Vodka currently accounts for a 23 percent share of liquor category sales on Drizly, down slightly year-over-year and showing a significant decline from 30 percent share in 2019. Tequila saw a 13 percent increase year-over-year in 2021 and now commands an 18 percent share of the liquor category. 

Consumers are embracing silver/blanco tequila as a cocktail ingredient in place of vodka, while the premium reposado and añejo subcategories are competing more closely with high-end whiskeys. 

“In the BevAlc Insights 2021 Retail Report, nearly 80 percent of retailers said they plan to carry more tequila in 2022, which is 40 points ahead of vodka,” Rellas notes. “We expect this category to continue on its growth trajectory as tequila becomes more of a staple, as well as a luxury option for special occasions and gifting.” 

Consumers Will Expect More From E-Commerce

Pandemic restrictions on brick-and-mortar liquor stores in 2020 dramatically increased consumer awareness of beverage alcohol e-commerce and on-demand delivery, and in 2021, retailers adopted e-commerce as an essential business strategy rather than a nice-to-have option. E-commerce technology will continue to evolve in 2022 to better serve both shoppers and retailers through personalization and greater access to product information.

To ensure continued success in the e-commerce realm, “we will work with retailers to improve operations to meet customers’ expectations around things like delivery times and gift presentation to win in an increasingly competitive market,” says Rellas.

Non-Alcoholic Drinks Will Continue to Grow

In response to the trend toward better-for-you beverages, non-alcoholic wine, beer, and spirits showed signs of growth in 2021. Month after month, all three landed among Drizly’s fastest-growing subcategories year-over-year. 

“This is a trend to watch in 2022,” says Rellas. Non-alcoholic beer is currently the biggest seller on Drizly, while non-alcoholic spirits have seen the strongest share growth within the liquor category — up 200 percent year-over-year. 

Retailers also see the value in zero-proof drinks; in the BevAlc Insights 2021 Retail Report, 26 percent of respondents cited non-alcoholic products as a top category for growth potential. Ninety percent of retailers on the Drizly platform now carry non-alcoholic beer, wine, and other alternatives, and the share of non-alcoholic products on Drizly has increased 120 percent since 2020.

Hard Seltzer’s Competitors Will See Gains 

The Covid-19 pandemic sent ready-to-drink (RTD) cocktail sales soaring in 2020, thanks to factors including convenience, portability, and the perceived safety of single-serve packaging in the midst of a worldwide health crisis. Strong sales growth continued in 2021 — driven largely by quality and innovation — and the category is poised to give hard seltzer a run for its money in 2022. 

Year to date, RTDs account for a 1.9 percent share of total sales on Drizly — up from 1.1 percent in 2020 and just 0.4 percent in 2019. 

While hard seltzer represents a larger share at 3.5 percent, RTDs still have plenty of room for growth. In 2021, for the first time, Drizly saw hard seltzer growth rates slow, and the category’s share experienced year-over-year losses. This suggests that the hard seltzer category may have reached its peak.

“In 2022, we expect hard seltzer shelf space will re-balance with other hard alternatives like hard tea, hard lemonade, wine-based drinks, and RTDs,” says Rellas. “Innovation across all of these categories is booming.” 

As more hard seltzer alternative products enter the market, consumers will seek more choice within the category, in both single-serve and multi-serve formats. For example, one of Drizly’s top-selling RTD brand for 2021, On the Rocks, has seen success with a variety of sizes. 

Consumers Will Buy Local

National brands saw a surge during pandemic shutdowns, with customers unable to explore local products at taprooms and bars. In 2022, however, local products will likely see a resurgence. 

“In our recent consumer and retailer surveys, both groups flagged local production as a key factor in alcohol purchases,” Rellas says, “particularly in the beer category.”

Further, he adds, “The pandemic’s economic impact and recent supply chain and shipping challenges have made consumers more aware of the companies they are supporting. People are keen to shop local small businesses.”

Gifting Will Keep on Giving

Since the start of the Covid-19 pandemic, online gifting has seen an unprecedented boom. Gift share reached its peak in December 2020 at 19 percent of Drizly’s total sales. 

The trend continued in 2021 as share increased 66 percent year-over-year. Gift orders now account for an average of 10 percent of total Drizly sales. “To put that into perspective,” says Rellas, “that is higher than the average share in December 2019, during the peak gift-giving season.” 
In response to sustained demand, we predict that brands will develop new gift products in 2022, and that retailers will invest greater resources in marketing their online gifting offerings.