Unless otherwise noted, data and insights below are for Memorial Day weeks in 2021 (2 weeks ending June 5, 2021) compared to Memorial Day weeks in 2020 and 2019 (2 weeks ending May 30, 2020 and 2 weeks ending June 1, 2019) in NielsenIQ off-premise channels.
The total fast-moving consumer goods (FMCG) market had a relatively strong Memorial Day, with dollar sales up 1.4% compared to 2020 and up 14% compared to 2019. Off-premise alcohol sales declined for Memorial Day 2021 compared to 2020, which was expected given the shift back to on-premise establishments. While Memorial Day is usually an off-premise centric holiday, this year it was the first major holiday to take place after many CDC restrictions were lifted across the country, leading to more on-premise drinking and eating occasions than in prior years. That said, overall alcohol consumption still has an above average shift to off-premise, which is evident in two year ago comparisons, with total off-premise alcohol dollars up 17% compared to Memorial Day weeks in 2019.
NielsenIQ partner CGA provided on-premise Memorial Day highlights from their CGA Covid Impact Consumer Research Wave 21 and Total Sales Data (BeverageTrak data to 05/31/2021)
While Memorial Day may previously have been more of an off-premise occasion, 44% of consumers stated that they were planning on celebrating the holiday and 18% of those in bars or restaurants.
Across the U.S., value velocity was up +43% vs the previous Monday in 2021, with trends +30pp higher than in 2019 where velocity was only up +13% vs the previous week. Compared to 2019, value velocity is also +30% higher with the average outlet making $10,825 (vs $8,302 in 2019). This is largely due to higher average check values, as whilst there were +5% more tickets over the day, average check value was up from $35 to $43 – a +24% increase.
Positive trends were also experienced on Memorial Day vs the previous Monday across key states, with California (+58%) performing best – though this should be taken with the contest that they also performed best in 2019 (+28%). New York (+43%), Texas (+40%), Illinois (+39%) and Florida (+31%) also performed well vs the previous Monday, with all states also being up significantly vs 2019, led by states that have been historically more open through COVID – Texas (+39% vs 2019) and New York (+43%).
Memorial Day is beer’s second biggest off-premise holiday of the year. In a sense, it sets the stage for the category’s performance for the rest of the summer, and sometimes is an indicator of which segments will perform strongly and which will fall behind in sales for the coming months. Given the unique times for alcohol in 2020, all of the dollar growth comparisons to follow will be compared to Memorial Day weeks from 2019 (2 weeks ending 6/01/19).
Core beer (excludes FMBs, cider, and seltzers) grew slightly in dollars compared to 2019, up 1.9%. The biggest gainers in core beer were imports, driven by Mexican import brands (+17.3%), super premium beers (+10.7%), and craft (+4.1%). For this key beer-drinking holiday, the biggest losses came from below premium (-11.4%), premium light (-5.3%), and premium regular (-4.8%).
Most of the biggest gains in the category came from “beyond beer” segments, with hard seltzers as the leader in actual dollar change, up 297% compared to 2019 sales and up 10.7% compared to 2020 Memorial Day sales. Last year at this time, hard seltzers were inching up to 10% dollar share of the category (9.8%). For Memorial Day 2021, hard seltzers reached close to 12% share, accounting for 11.7% of total off-premise category dollars. To put this into perspective, this is the same dollar share for craft beer in NielsenIQ off-premise channels for Memorial Day weeks. While hard seltzer sales have most certainly slowed over the past few months, it remains one of the few segments to surpass 2020 dollar sales, which is an indicator that hard seltzers will once again be a staple for off-premise drinking occasions this summer.
Other beyond beer segments to experience strong gains compared to 2019 include FMBs (+4.3%), hard kombucha (+232%), and hard tea (+59%). Most of these segments also grew in dollars compared to last year’s sales, with FMBs as the exception (-11.7%), but strong growth from hard kombucha (+32.4%) and hard tea (+18.2%).
The top 5 brands in the category for the 2 weeks ending 6/5/21 were Bud Light, Modelo Especial, Mich Ultra, Coors Light, and Corona Extra. All but one brand are falling behind off-premise Memorial Day sales of 2020. The top growth brand extensions for Memorial Day are a sea of seltzers, with 9 of the top 10 representing hard seltzer brands or flavor extensions launched this year. Twisted Tea is the only non-seltzer brand among the top 10 growth brands.
For Memorial Day 2021, nearly every category in spirits is in decline compared to Memorial Day 2020 off-premise sales. However, when compared to Memorial Day 2019, nearly every spirits category is up, and in most cases, up strong double digits. Whiskey was the strongest overall contributor to dollar growth, up 28%, followed by tequila, up 87%. Tequila even surpassed 2020 Memorial Day sales, up 3.9% compared to last year.
Ready-to-drink cocktails continue to skyrocket, with sales up 496% compared to 2019 and up 111% compared to 2020. RTD cocktails experienced the strongest dollar share gains of any spirits category for Memorial Day, up 2 share points compared to last year. RTD spirits reached 3.7% of total spirits dollars for the two-week time period, surpassing dollar sales for gin in NielsenIQ off-premise channels.
For the two weeks ending 6/5/21, nearly all segments of wine are down compared to Memorial Day in 2020. But how does wine performance compare to Memorial Day in 2019? Compared to the 2 weeks ending 6/01/19 in off-premise channels, total wine is up 14.3%, with sparkling wine leading growth, up 38.6% and table wine up 7.1%. French champagne was a big growth driver, up 87% vs 2019 and up 23.9% compared to 2020. Remember that French champagne started to spike in dollar growth around this time last year, so we are beginning to lap strong growth rates from last year, and evenso, the segment continues to experience double digit growth. (For Memorial Day last year, French champagne grew 51% compared to the prior year in off-premise channels).
Wine-based cocktails continue their surge, up 47% compared to last year, and up 247% compared to 2 years ago. Other growth segments include flavored wine, up 16.4% vs year ago and up 86% vs 2 years ago, and non-alcoholic wine, while still very small, has nearly doubled in size in the past two years, up 88% compared to Memorial Day 2019.
As sales for nearly all wine segments in off-premise channels are still far above norms, particularly compared to 2019, it is helpful to look at share shifts to better understand which segments have the strongest performance across wine. Compared to Memorial Day 2019, table wine lost 5.3 dollar share points, with sparkling picking up 2.0 share points (French champagne gained 1.2 points), flavored wine gaining 1.2 share points, and wine cocktails up 2.2 share points. All segments that are gaining share also tend to be segments that appeal to younger legal-drinking age consumers. Longer-term, this could be beneficial to the wine industry by engaging younger Millennials and Gen Zers through non-traditional wine segments like flavored wines and cocktails, and then grow into table wine.
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