Category on the Rise: Mead and Honey Wine
With innovative craft offerings and a range of flavors, mead is expanding with new, widespread distribution
Mead and honey wines have gotten a makeover in recent years, catapulting this historic beverage into the spotlight as a high growth specialty category on Drizly. The result of increased nationwide distribution and product innovation, mead is becoming a go-to choice for adventurous consumers, particularly among craft beer enthusiasts.
“As distribution, as well as craft offerings, have risen in the category, so has consumer awareness of mead,” says Liz Paquette, Drizly’s head of consumer insights, who notes the number of mead SKUs on the platform has grown by 130 percent from the close of 2019. “This suggests that retail distribution of the category has increased significantly over the past year and a half, which is likely a key factor in the growth of consumer awareness and share of the category.”
The mead category accounts for just 0.1 percent share of the total wine category on Drizly in 2021. Within the specialty wine category, however—which includes sangria, fruit wine, non-alcoholic wine, mulled wine, and more—mead accounts for over nine percent of share in 2021 to date, up from 8.1 percent in 2019.
This gradual yet consistent growth across the Drizly platform mirrors the mead industry’s larger growth trends. According to Nielsen data, off-premise mead sales in the U.S. have grown by 19.5 percent in the 52-week period ending September 5, 2021, expanding on a trend the data giant has seen since 2018. Within the three-year period ending September 8, 2021, off-premise mead purchasing has grown by 54.3 percent, indicating sustained growth and the potential of mead as a serious revenue driver for well-stocked retailers.
James Boicourt, the owner and co-founder of Charm City Meadworks—the fourth-best selling mead brand on Drizly in both 2020 and 2021—believes the trend in mead consumption is thanks to product innovation within the category. “The product offerings themselves have changed a lot from what mead was just five years ago,” he says. “In particular, we really tend to focus today on meads that are lighter, drier, and more refreshing. We’re treating our meads more like a new category, rather than sort of looking at mead through its historic lens.”
Yet the rise in mead consumption isn’t limited to new market entrants or mead formats: Consumption of traditionally made, off-dry meads is growing rapidly according to California-based Chaucer’s Mead, the second-most popular mead brand on Drizly in 2021. Their remains on traditional honey wines, often served warm with mulling spices, which they have made for over 40 years.
Who’s Drinking Mead, and Where?
“When upstart producers began making craft-style and more drinkable meads, things changed. We used to be put with kosher wines and sherries, but now we’re next to cans, or bomber bottles, and more trendy packaging,” says Vaughn. “There’s a lot of crossover between craft beer drinkers and mead lovers, in our experience.”
Drizly data supports his claim: Denver, long a mecca for craft brews, is the top market for mead sales nationally. The Denver area accounts for 22 percent of mead share on the Drizly platform, compared to eight percent of overall share on Drizly in 2021. Similarly, San Diego is the third-most popular market for mead, making up eight percent of share in terms of mead sales but one percent share of overall sales on Drizly. Other top markets include Phoenix, Tampa Bay, and Seattle.
Vaughn recommends retailers experiment by placing mead near its modern counterparts like cider and beer. “Lean into the seasonal shifts in consumption,” he says. “We see mead sales expand in the fall and recommend putting it in the cold box near the ciders and beer. You’ll have a better chance of an impulse buy because beer lovers know mead.”
Boicourt agrees: “I think that we tend to get a lot of craft beer customers because they tend to be more adventurous. As a group, they’re looking for the newest beverage or something different. Right now, mead can be that beverage.”
The top-selling meads on Drizly are split evenly between domestic producers and Danish brands, which account for 45 percent of share each. This is a shift from 2020, when American-made meads amounted to 49 percent of share, suggesting that international brands are growing in popularity across the U.S.
The top 10 most popular mead brands on Drizly in 2021 are largely identical to the top brands of 2020, with eight of the same key players on both lists. This data suggests existing mead brands have a strong foothold in the marketplace and a relatively loyal following among consumers.
In terms of individual SKUs, Danish powerhouse Dansk crafts six of the top 10 most popular mead products on Drizly in 2021—up from five of the most popular SKUs in 2020—suggesting dominance in the Danish segment of this category.
Overall, the most popular brands are also divided by the style of their products, with traditional sweet meads and modern, drier styles holding similar share. As a result, retailers should consider offering meads across the sweetness spectrum to take advantage of this rising category.
Drizly’s Top-Selling Mead Brands, 2021 to Date
- Redstone Meadery
- Charm City Meadworks
- Meadery of the Rockies
- Thorin’s Mead
- Moonlight Meadery
- Superstition Meadery
- B. Nektar
Drizly’s Top-Selling Mead SKUs, 2021 to Date
- Dansk Mjod Viking Blod
- Chaucer’s Mead
- Danks Mjod Vikingerner Mjod
- Redstone Meadery Honey Wine
- Dansk Mjod Odins Skull
- Bunratty Meade
- Dansk Mjod Klapojster Mjod
- Dansk Mjod Ribe Mjod
- Gi. Dansk Mjod Nordic Honey Wine With Ginger
- Thorin’s Viking Texas Mead
Looking Ahead in the Mead Category
As consumers continue to gravitate toward new products, and both domestic and international mead producers expand their offerings, mead as a category is likely to continue on its steady growth trajectory.
“Because this is a category on the rise, when stocking products like mead, retailers should focus on educating their customers on the variety within the category and its unique qualities,” says Paquette, noting the diversity of mead styles available increases its potential as a revenue driver.
Echoing Paquette, Boicourt believes education is crucial: “Mead is a really versatile thing!” he says. “I think that there is something for everybody to be excited about.”