It’s never too early to prep for the holidays. We’ve been watching horror movies nonstop since about August 1, for example. Will we still buy all of our Christmas presents Dec. 23? Probably. Anyway, the year-end holiday vortex of Halloween, Thanksgiving, Christmas, New Year’s Eve is fast approaching, all of which means more socializing and drinking … right? Or will the zombie pandemic still hold back our fun? And, either way, which alcohols will fuel our renewed social gatherings and/or continued hermit existence? Drizly and its BevAlc Insights team glanced at their data and chatted with retailers, importers, and brand leaders to lay out some predictions for the holiday drinking season.
Celebrations will be mixed. In Drizly’s 2021 consumer survey, conducted in June, less than half of respondents said they plan to celebrate the holidays the same way they did in 2019. The majority said their holiday gatherings will resemble those of 2020.
“We’re going to see a mix of pre-pandemic and during-pandemic behaviors, with gathering types ranging from smaller or even virtual events to bigger celebrations,” says Liz Paquette, Drizly’s head of consumer insights. “I think the mantra for this coming OND is the same as it has been for this past year — prepare for the unexpected and pivot as necessary.”
Jason Gold, the owner of Gold’s Wine and Spirits in Rhode Island, is already seeing a trend toward larger gathering sizes and expects consumers to host more at-home events this OND. “People feel that they were deprived of that last year,” he says.
Tequila and whiskey will shine. Tequila accounts for approximately 25 percent of the overall liquor category on Drizly and is likely to continue gaining share. Led by growth in the reposado and añejo categories, tequila’s average unit price has increased 23 percent over 2020.
“Our consumers like to enjoy tequila during celebratory moments,” says Lander Otegui, the senior vice president of marketing at Proximo Spirits. “This is especially true during the holidays, a time when many are willing to spend more on premium offerings.”
In the whiskey category, bourbon’s share has remained flat year-over-year while smaller categories such as Scotch, Japanese whisky, and rye have seen significant gains in 2021. Combined with whiskey, the tequila category currently accounts for a 35 percent share of gift orders on Drizly.
RTDs will continue to grow. In August 2021, hard seltzer’s sales share on Drizly declined 12 percent year-over-year while share for spirits-based, ready-to-drink (RTD) cocktails grew 85 percent.
“RTDs have been a category to watch this year, and we expect this to persist through the holiday season,” says Paquette. “Cocktail-making has been a big trend over the pandemic, but OND is typically a big time of year for making cocktails at home. With the greater innovation in this category, diversification in the types of cocktails being offered, and the quality in his format, this could potentially be seen as a replacement for consumers for some secondary cocktail ingredients.”
Gifting will continue to go online. Online gifting has seen significant growth on Drizly, with share surging from nine percent in December 2019 to 20 percent in December 2020. The average unit value for gift orders is about 72 percent higher than the standard order, and most gifts are sent by buyers who live outside of the store’s local market.
“This is an awesome opportunity to drive valuable sales online,” says Paquette. It also gives retailers a chance to acquire new customers that wouldn’t normally shop in their stores as well as introduces them to new local shoppers.
Jonathan Kerkian, the owner of Corkscrew Johnny’s in Richfield, Ohio, expects to see a spike in gifting this OND compared to flat overall sales. “There was still a significant amount of at-home consumption going on at this time in 2020,” he says, “so I expect that will happen less in a more normal 2021, and more of consumers’ income will be allocated to giving gifts.”
Peter Willcock, the senior vice president of brand development for Palm Bay International, sees particular potential for gift sets. With both consumers and retailers recognizing the value-add of such offerings, he says, “Gift sets need to be intelligently conceived by marketers to ensure these solutions deliver above and beyond the regular package.”