Booze | May 27, 2020 12:00 pm

The One Spirit People Have Been Drinking More Than Ever During Quarantine

Booze sales are up, but one category is particularly robust

Gin sales are up 42% over last year.
Anna Müller / EyeEm / Getty

We’re drinking a lot more … gin?

It’s relatively good financial news for the alcohol industry over the past few months, according to the latest Nielsen data (as reported by CNBC).

Some interesting takeaways from the recent report:

  • Retail sales of gin are up 42.5% from last year during the previous nine weeks
  • Off-premise sales of spirits in the U.S. are up 34.1% from last year for the nine-week period ending May 2, wine sales went up 30.1% and beer is up 12.6%
  • Online sales of booze are up 234% from a year ago

“We’ve seen rises in (people making) really simple, two to three ingredient cocktails, anything from the Negroni (to) the classic martini … and we’ve seen a significant rise in sales of premium mixers,” Tom Spaven, brand director at Bacardi-owned gin brand Bombay Sapphire, told CNBC.

The not-so-good news is that not everybody is sharing in the big gains. Another Nielsen report estimates the U.S. alcohol market needs to sustain 22% volume growth across all alcohol categories sold off premise to level off from the impact of closed bars and restaurants.

“Consumers are shifting the dollars they would have spent on alcohol in a restaurant, bar, or tasting room to alcoholic beverages they can buy at a lower mark-up from retailers, online merchants and even directly from the supplier in the instances where it is legalized to do so,” said Danny Brager, SVP of Nielsen’s Beverage Alcohol practice.

But the big losers, besides bars? Craft distilleries. While online marketplaces like Drizly and Minibar Delivery are booming, the smaller brands are suffering due to lack of distribution networks, the closing of tasting rooms and less money for advertising. As the Washington Post points out, “National brands can pay to commandeer premium placement on liquor store websites and shelves … which may partially explain the rise of their sales figures during the pandemic.”

As we noted last month, one way you can help out: Buy local and buy craft.

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