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One year post-lockdown: The new normal of Bev Alc

A look at how the shifts from the past year have affected the BevAlc industry.

March 18, 2021

The life-changing experience of the COVID-19 crisis has altered consumer behavior and attitudes in nearly every major category. A $2.6B domestic business in aggregate in 2019, alcohol entered 2020 already experiencing shifts in preferences; some dramatic, as in the case of hard seltzer. Fast forward 12 months – 2021 now holds an unprecedented “new normal” for the BevAlc industry, across alcohol shopping behavior, consumer trends and attitudes.

This dashboard identifies the most notable shifts over the period of March 2020 - March 2021 and analyzes their longevity – especially timely, with on-premise consumption opportunities gaining momentum and the spring/summer season at hand. 

Overall impact on annual growth

A major spike in purchasing occurred at the onset of the pandemic in March, as consumers prepared to settle in, stocking up and at-home cocktail making took a major increase. Throughout the summer, purchasing behavior sustained at unprecedentedly high rates. Q4 saw typical seasonal incline, with December sales representing the second highest of the year. Overall, the dramatic sales impact at the start of the pandemic has sustained as consumers have adapted to the new way of shopping for alcohol. While the data in this chart represents year over year growth specific to Drizly, there has been significant growth overall within the category as a whole.

A shift in basket size

From February to March 2020, average order volume increased 50%, indicating that consumers were exhibiting a “stock up” mentality.  Order volume ebbed and flowed throughout subsequent months, but looking at one-year-later, basket size has significantly grown (20%), well-above baseline new normal. 

A new category in first place 

Historically, wine has reigned supreme as the largest category on Drizly, followed by liquor, beer and extras. In February 2020, wine accounted for about 41% of category share. However, amidst the peak pandemic period (March-May 2020) liquor overtook wine and as the largest category. Now at 41% in March 2021, liquor continues to hold the top spot. Paired with the fact that sales of mixers, bitters and other cocktail ingredients have risen sharply on Drizly since mid-March 2020, this is indicative of the rise in at-home cocktail making and a generally new view on at-home drinking behavior.


Subcategories on-the-rise

A few key subcategories have seen substantial shifts amidst the pandemic. Perhaps the most notable is a major spike in sparkling wine and champagne. While there was an initial decline at the onset of the pandemic, as celebratory gatherings and gifting happened largely from afar, this subcategory grew dramatically throughout the second half of the year. Liqueur, cordials and schnapps also surged as consumers experimented with at-home cocktail making. Further, tequila and ready to drink cocktails experienced a steady increase since February 2020. 

Gift orders sustain momentum

Prior to the pandemic, gifts represented about 3% of all orders on Drizly, with a typical holiday surge to around 9%.  When large gatherings and in-person celebrations were curtailed throughout spring of 2020, share of gift orders increased by about 2%. Holiday 2020 represented an all-time-high for gifting, at an unprecedented 19% of order share. With the COVID restrictions tighter than ever in Q4, consumers looked online to spread love from afar, with alcohol serving as a perfect, special gift. Since then, gifting has maintained a significantly higher-than-baseline share, at 10% of all orders. Whether a special holiday or a typical Tuesday, consumers have now adopted a new way to spread cheer: The gift of Drizly.

Implications for the future of the industry

  • Webinar: One year post lockdown

    For a deeper dive into the lasting impact of the pandemic on the alcohol industry, join BevAlc Insights’ One Year Post Lockdown: What We’ve Learned and What’s Next for Retailers webinar on March 24. Hear actionable ideas to optimize and grow your retail business in a post-COVID world from a panel of industry experts.