As spring blooms, beverage alcohol purchasing preferences shift as warmer weather expands opportunities for outdoor gatherings. This is likely to be more prevalent than ever in 2021 as consumers revel in the ability to more safely socialize outside after a long, Covid-impacted winter.

“Spring alcohol trends fall in line with holidays, major events, and warmer weather,” explains Brandy Rand, COO of the Americas at IWSR Drinks Market Analysis. “Traditionally, there’s a big uptick in Irish whiskey around St Patrick’s Day, wine buying for Easter, bourbon for the Kentucky Derby, and tequila for Cinco de Mayo as people gather for these occasions.” 

Prior year Drizly data indicates that throughout Q2, beverages associated with outdoor gathering and warm weather—such as rosé wines, beer, ready-to-drink (RTD) cocktails, and tequila—see the largest sales spikes. In addition to preparing for key spring holidays, retailers should stock up on these springtime categories—and their top-selling brands—to maximize sales as these products enter their peak season. 

Share Gains for Beer, Particularly Hard Seltzer

Though the beer category holds the lowest share of sales relative to wine and spirits on Drizly, it typically experiences an uptick come springtime. The category held 19 percent of share during Q2 over the previous two years, gaining one percentage point last year and two in 2019.

“Major sporting events like March Madness and generally more outdoor gatherings are good for beer,” says Rand. Nielsen off-premise sales data also indicates a similar rise in premium light beers and Irish beers surrounding St. Patrick’s Day in March, a precursor to the spring season.

Retailers can expect hard seltzer to be a significant driver beer of sales in Q2. When the category was on the rise, springtime share gains were significant: Hard seltzer held 11 percent of beer share in Q2 of 2019, while it only held 6 percent of share in Q1 of 2019. It also gained share in spring 2020, though the growth was less significant because hard seltzer had already become a staple of the beer category.

“This year, though the share gain may be less significant, hard seltzer will sure to be a key sales driver for retailers, particularly as product innovation continues in the category,” says Liz Paquette, Drizly’s head of consumer insights. Look for strong sales among new releases like Bud Light Seltzer Lemonade and Michelob Hard Seltzer as well as new craft offerings from local producers. 

‘Tis the Season for Rosé

Spring is undoubtedly rosé season, with 2019 and 2020 Drizly data indicating that rosé share of wine sales typically doubles from Q1 to Q2 each year. Not only is this because warm weather has consumers thinking pink, but it’s also because most wineries release the new vintage of rosé wines in February and March, flooding stores with newly-released favorites that aren’t available to consumers during the fall and winter seasons.

However, year-over-year data indicates that the rosé fervor could be slowing; rosé held 11 percent of wine share in 2020 compared to 12 percent in 2019. That said, retailers should continue to stock their shelves with new rosé releases. “Rosé is still an important wine category for retailers to plan for in spring,” says Paquette. “particularly around occasions like Mother’s Day or Easter where the category is a popular gift order driver.”

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Drizly’s Top Selling Spring Rosé Brands

  1. Château d’Esclans
  2. Wolffer Estate
  3. Bota Box
  4. Gerard Bertrand
  5. Dark Horse Wine
  6. La Vieille Ferme 
  7. Miraval
  8. Josh Cellars 
  9. Prophecy 
  10. Barefoot 

Peak Time for Tequila

A new category trend emerged in 2020: In Q2, liquor overtook wine as the top-selling category on Drizly, gaining one percentage point over Q1 to reach 40 percent of Drizly sales share. This was likely related to pandemic bar and restaurant shutdowns, as liquor had actually lost a percent point of share in Q2 of 2019. “In 2021, the pandemic impact will likely be felt differently across the country this spring,” says Paquette. “Some cities and states will start to open sooner as vaccination occurs at a faster rate than others.”

One of the major share drivers for the liquor category was tequila, a subcategory that has seen major year-over-year growth and also tends to experience share growth from winter to spring each year. Tequila share rose from 11 percent in Q1 to 14 percent in Q2 in 2019, and it grew from 13 percent in Q1 to 16 percent in Q2 in 2020.

In both years, tequila share peaked in May due to the Cinco de Mayo holiday, comprising 15 percent of share in 2019 and 18 percent of share in 2020 during that month. Given tequila’s significant gains over the past year, retailers can expect stronger spring tequila sales than ever, likely in a broader range of subcategories (including añejo and reposado) and prices, with and premium sipping tequilas competing more closely with their whiskey counterparts.

RTDs Will Be Stronger Than Ever

“Ready-to-drink was among the hottest categories in 2020 in terms of sales growth, particularly within the single-serve offerings, which spiked in Q2 amidst changing spring weather and the Covid-19 pandemic,” explains Liz Paquette, Drizly’s head of consumer insights. While vaccinations and declining case counts are hinting at a potential return to normal in the not-too-distant future, it’s likely single-serve offerings will remain popular.

Social distancing and new ways of gathering led consumers to value the convenience and safety of single-serving packaging even more, making canned cocktails a breakout category in 2020. But the RTD cocktail trend has been growing for years, and RTDs gained share from Q1 to Q2 in both 2019 (from one percent to 2.5 percent) and 2020 (from 1 percent to three percent). 

With continued popularity of RTD cocktails throughout the holidays and into the new year, retailers who dedicate shelf space to RTDs will likely see strong spring sales.

“In spring 2021, we expect new entrants to gain share year-over-year as new product innovation and launches in the category increase competition and choice for consumers,” says Paquette. Thus far in 2021, the fastest-growing RTD brands include the Long Drink Company, Crafthouse, On the Rocks, Austin Cocktails, and Two Chicks. 

Drizly’s Top-Selling Spring RTD Brands

  1. High Noon 
  2. Jose Cuervo
  3. Skinnygirl
  4. 1800 Tequila
  5. Cutwater Spirits
  6. Drinkworks 
  7. On The Rocks 
  8. Bacardi 
  9. Cayman Jack 
  10. Fisher’s Island