As the holiday season approaches and gifting reaches a fever pitch, seasonal drinks trends remain in flux: A combination of economic uncertainty, growing moderation movements, and Gen Z preferences are likely to impact the drinks landscape this winter.

“Our data on alcohol purchasing behavior suggests that consumers are much more alive to promotions and discounts as they look to maximize their spending power,” explains Brandy Rand, the chief strategy officer at IWSR Drinks Market Analysis. “However this is tending to manifest more in terms of waiting for a preferred brand to be discounted, rather than trading down to a cheaper or own-label alternative.” 

Though recessionary fears are affecting many consumers, Paquette notes alcohol spending has not yet been significantly impacted. “Despite retailers reporting feeling the impact of inflation on sales overall, in 2022 to date, Drizly has continued to see rising average order values as well as average unit prices, particularly for gift orders, which represent 20 percent sales during the month of December.”

In addition to economics-driven consumption trends, Drizly data indicates retailers may see an acceleration of last year’s trends, such as increased consumer interest in non-alcoholic beverages and IPAs.

“Winter months are historically prime time for heavier beer styles–including many seasonal favorites,” says Paquette. “We expect this to persist this winter, potentially even more so than last year based on our retail survey results.” 

Read on for BevAlc Insights’ winter beverage sales predictions and tips for staying one step ahead.  

Economic Forces Will Lead Some Shoppers to Seek Deals

Inflation and rising prices across beverage alcohol products are leading consumers to look for more deals, according to data from Drizly and the IWSR. While not all price increases can be directly attributed to inflation, higher prices and uncertainty will likely shape shopping trends this season. 

“Early findings from our consumer price sensitivity study show that consumer confidence varies widely by country. In the U.S., consumer confidence is generally positive, but there is evidence of growing caution about the future,” says Rand. “A key trend that is emerging across markets is that of ‘selective uptrading.’ In response to constrained incomes, consumers are more selective about which brands they buy and how often, while trying to save money on more quotidian beverage categories. It also aligns with a growing trend towards moderation, not only for well-being reasons, but for economic ones as well.”

Retailers on Drizly have already begun to take advantage of these sentiments among consumers. According to Drizly’s 2022 Retail Report, 38 percent of retailers have introduced more deals, sales, and loyalty programs in response to inflation. 

“Though it cannot be attributed strictly to inflation, the average unit price on Drizly in 2022 to date is $19.90, up seven percent year-over-year from the same time period in 2021,” says Paquette, noting unit prices have risen steadily across all categories. Beer and wine have seen the greatest price increases in 2022, rising by five and 5.3 percent, respectively, while spirits are up three percent on average over 2021 prices. 

Dry January Will Propel Non-Alcoholic Product Growth

The non-alcoholic (NA) category on Drizly has seen steady growth over the past three years, expanding by 190 percent between 2020 and 2022. Though NA products continue to make up a small portion of overall share on Drizly, their growth is notable and likely to expand as wellness trends peak in January.

January was the top month for non-alcoholic product sales,” says Paquette, noting sales of NA products in January were 47 percent higher in January than in the remaining 11 months of the year. 

Within the NA category, spirits have seen 41 percent growth in 2022 over 2021, followed by NA wines, which are up 15 percent over 2021 levels.

“The no-alcohol wine segment in the U.S. is well established,” explains Rand. “New brands are entering the market with more premium attributes (for example, no added preservatives or sulfites, or through the use of adaptogens, probiotics, antioxidants, and other naturally sourced ingredients) than the incumbent brands, but there are challenges in developing no-alcohol wine with a taste profile comparable to traditional wines.” 

Craft Beer Consumption Will Climb

Respondents in Drizly’s 2022 Retail report cited “craft beer” as the top beer trend in 2023. 

In the same report, 59 percent of retailers plan to stock more IPAs in 2023 while 39 percent will increase their seasonal beer offerings – a continuation of winter 2021 and 2022 trends, where IPAs grew in popularity. 

While lighter beer styles often compete for share with seltzers and ready-to-drink cocktails, Paquette notes richer craft styles don’t face the same challenges and likely won’t be impacted by ready-to-drink and seltzer trends. “We have seen IPAs compete more closely with other core beer categories like lagers versus alternative categories like hard seltzers,” she says.

The Vodka vs. Tequila Battle Will Persist

Among spirits, tequila outperformed expectations while vodka underperformed according to data from Drizly’s 2022 Retail Report. The two spirits, which also remain the most popular bases in ready-to-drink cocktails, continue to divide consumers.

Vodka remains the leader with 23 percent of share of liquor sales on Drizly, while tequila makes up 19 percent of share. However, 64 percent of retailers reported plans to stock more tequila in 2023 – possibly indicating that tequila could outpace vodka soon. Given the prominence of both spirits, retailers should consider stocking a variety of options in both categories.

Gen Z Drinkers Will Fuel a Red Wine Resurgence

Red wine sales have declined over the past three years, shrinking from 40 percent of overall share to 36 percent of share in 2022. However, an increased interest in red wines by younger consumers is likely to shift red wine’s status this winter. 

“Younger consumers are one driver of the red wine resurgence,” says Paquette, citing Drizly’s 2022 Consumer Report. “We found that Gen Z expects to up their purchases of red wine more than any other category.“ 

Retailers also indicated plans to increase their purchases of red wine leading into 2023. Red wine was the top category retailers reported planning to stock more of in 2023, surpassing sparkling wines. 

Red wines traditionally see gains during cold winter months, and peaked at 42 percent of wine share in January 2022. This year, that peak is likely to be higher with retailers and consumers actively seeking out red wines. 

“Beyond the mainstays like Cabernet Sauvignon and Pinot Noir, which drive the majority of red wine sales on Drizly, Italian red varieties are one to watch, as many have seen growth over the past year,” says Paquette.