Despite shelter-in-place restrictions limiting travel and preventing social outings during the height of the pandemic, total alcohol consumption in 2020 rose to its highest level in three decades.
A report from leading alcohol beverage data analysis firm IWSR suggests that at-home occasions helped spur the demand for alcoholic beverages last year. U.S. drinkers consumed 2 percent more alcohol in 2020 versus the year prior, representing the highest year-over-year increase since 2002. What’s more, in the 30 years that IWSR has tracked volume sales in the U.S., no year has ever been as high as 2020, a spokesperson for the firm told VinePair via email.
Ready-to-drink (RTD) cocktails continued to increase in popularity, with a 62.3 percent increase by volume. The category’s growth is fueled by hard seltzers, which surged 130 percent in 2020. Flavor is a driving factor behind the increased consumption of RTD’s, according to IWSR COO Brand Rand, and flavored beverages are “significantly outperforming traditional non-flavored categories.”
Turning to higher-proof offerings, spirits led the way with the largest volume increase in over 30 years. Vodka continues to be the best-selling liquor in the U.S. by volume, with whiskey trailing close behind. Agave-based products overtook rum as the third-largest category last year.
Scotch whisky and Irish Whiskey numbers were negatively impacted by a host of variables, including high tariffs (which were temporarily suspended in March) and bar closures. Wine volume increased modestly, while beer was a drag on overall totals with a drop of 2.8 percent.
As the numbers illustrate, while Americans were sequestered in their home last year, a good number of people were clearly doing their part to help set new consumption records.