When the Covid-19 pandemic hit in 2020, its impact on the alcohol industry was impossible to ignore, with the hospitality, entertainment, and recreation industries losing almost half of their workforces. The result for the global beverage alcohol industry was a volume loss of over six percent and a value loss of over four percent.

However, according to new data released by the IWSR Drinks Market Analysis, global beverage alcohol volume grew by three percent in 2021 and total global beverage alcohol value grew by 12 percent, reaching $1.17 dollars — making up twofold for Covid-driven losses.

Driving the post-pandemic upward tick are the more adventurous millennials subscribing to the “less but better” ideology — or purchasing fewer, but higher-quality, alcoholic beverages than previous generations. Underlying consumer trends also include what IWSR refers to as “better for me” drinkers — consumers interested in ingredient quality, functional benefits, and lower-alcohol options — and “better for the world” drinkers, consumers interested in brands connected to sustainability and social equality.

Mark Meek, CEO of IWSR Drinks Market Analysis, says of the findings: “Our latest data shows encouraging signs for the continued recovery of beverage alcohol. The market rebounded far more quickly than expected and, in value terms, 2021 is now above 2019.”

While the rebounding of the global alcohol industry may have come sooner than expected, there is no doubt that the data bodes well for the industry’s future. As stated by Meek, “We’re living in an age of uncertainty, and these are uncharted waters for the industry. However, as we have seen in previous crises, this is a very resilient industry sector.”

Read on for some of the most interesting industry growth information from IWSR.

By the End of 2022, Whiskey Will be Bigger Than Vodka By Volume in the United States for the First Time in Almost Two Decades

The whiskey category accounted for almost 25 percent of all global spirits volume in 2021 and is expected to continue growing — IWSR predicts volume growth of over 23 percent over the course of the next five years and value growth of over 29 percent. By the end of 2022, whiskey will overtake vodka in terms of volume for the first time in almost 20 years.

In the United States, Agave-Based Spirits Will Be More Valuable than Whiskey by End of Year

In the last five years, tequila consumption has increased in the United States by over 30 percent and in 2021, agave-based spirits saw higher levels of growth than expected. As of last year, the sector is one of the top three largest spirits categories in America, behind vodka and whiskey. The United States is the world’s most valuable market for agave-based spirits, and by the end of 2022, the category is slated to become more valuable domestically than whiskey. Over the course of the next five years, the category is forecasted to grow an additional 67 percent.

Wine Volume May Be Decreasing, But Its Value is Not

While wine’s global volume decreased by two percent last year, its value increased by five percent. Largely driving this increase is the “less but better” trend in which consumers may be purchasing wine less frequently, but the wine they are buying is of higher quality and at a higher price point.

Sparkling wine saw noticeable global gains in 2021, including a 24 percent volume growth of Champagne and a 7.5 percent volume growth of other sparkling wines. By 2026, wine is forecasted to experience an overall decrease of one percent in terms of volume, but a five percent increase in value globally.

The RTD Category Is Continuing to Expand Its Sphere of Influence

The ready-to-drink (RTD) category has been exploding in recent years — in 2021, RTDs increased volume outputs by 14 percent, compounding the existing 26 percent growth the category saw in 2020. By volume, the RTD category is now a third of the size of both the global spirits and wine categories. Over the next five years, the category is expected to expand 51 percent in value and grow an additional 44 percent in volume.

This story is a part of VP Pro, our free content platform and newsletter for the drinks industry, covering wine, beer, and liquor — and beyond. Sign up for VP Pro now!