America's drinkers desert beer for wine and liquor


There’s a problem that all of Budweiser‘s pseudo-craft beers and music events and commercials masquerading as marketing can’t solve. And that’s that Americans just don’t like beer as much as they used to.

According to a study whose results Gallup published August 1, all except America’s oldest adults are switching their preferences to wine and liquor.

Goodbye, stereotype

Moreover, the marketing model of targeting Pareto distribution-style heavy users is increasingly becoming a thing of the past. While 35 percent of respondents said they’d had a drink in the past 24 hours and 29 percent in the past week, they also report having downed an average of 3.8 drinks over that seven-day period – hardly the stereotype of your blue-collar hardhat in his t-shirt downing a six-pack a night in front of the television.

Youth movement

Back in the early 1990s, Gallup reports, “71 percent of adults under age 30 said they drank beer most often; now it is 41 percent among that age group.” That’s a 30 percent swing, especially compared to a 10 percent preference increase for wine and 15 percent for liquor among this age group.

By contrast, preference for beer has dropped only 5 percent, and grown 7 percent for liquor,  among 30-49-year-olds.

Adults 50+ are the most stable group, having lived long enough to have acquired established consuming habits. Beer preference, which is up from 28 to 29 percent over the past two decades, is virtuallly unchanged, the 1 percent difference being well within Gallup’s ± 3 percent margin of sampling error. But among the same age group, wine preference is up a statistically significant 9 percent.

Not just women

In Gallup’s 1992-94 survey, women’s preference for wine was nearly three times men’s (43 vs. 15 percent). Fast forward two decades, and women’s wine preference rate is even higher (now 52 percent), but men are ever so slowly catching up (now 20 percent, a one-third increase).

Racial harmony

Both whites and racial minorities have deserted beer for wine. In 1992-94, whites preferred beer to wine 47 to 29 percent and minorities 53 to 22. But today, at 38/36 for whites and 34/34 for nonwhites, they’re statistically tied.

“Most key subgroups have shifted away from beer as their favorite alcoholic beverage, but this trend is particularly pronounced among younger Americans and minorities,” Gallup concludes. “These demographic patterns, should they persist, suggest that beer may not return to its position from two decades ago as the dominant preferred alcoholic beverage.”

In other words, the handwriting’s on the brewery wall.

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