U.S. Wine Intake Drops for First Time in 25 Years

Baby boomers aren’t drinking as much, while millennials prefer alternatives.

January 15, 2020

NEW YORK—Americans last year clearly didn’t opt for that second glass of wine. Total wine purchases in the United States decreased 0.9% in 2019 for the first time in 25 years, according to preliminary figures from the IWSR Drinks Market Analysis. Additionally, for the fourth year in a row, U.S. beer volume dropped (-2.3%) as did cider (-3.8%). But distilled spirits and ready-to-drink (RTD) products continued to post gains (+2.3% and +49.7%, respectively).

Despite decreases in the beer category, which represents the lion’s share of alcohol sold in the United States, total beverage alcohol posted volume growth of 0.3% in 2019 (reversing a previous decline), with a value reaching $167 billion (up 2.5% from 2018).

“Millennials are just not embracing wine with open arms compared to previous generations,” said Brandy Rand, IWSR’s chief operating officer for the Americas. “With the rise in low and no-alcohol products and general consumer trends toward health and wellness, wine is in a tough place,” Brandy Rand, COO for the Americas at IWSR Drinks Market Analysis, told the Wall Street Journal.

Though sparkling wine in the United States grew last year by almost 4%, it wasn’t enough to offset the decrease in the large still wine category (-1.5%), which brought total wine down by 0.9%. The last volume loss in the category occurred in 1994, marking 24 years of growth before this most recent decline, and is attributed to changing generational habits. Wine represents about 11% of the total beverage alcohol market in the United States.

The Wine Institute anticipates that wine consumption will rise as millennials start drinking more wine as they age, similar to what happened with baby boomers. Winemakers are branching out beyond bottles, with wine sold in cartons and cans. Rich Bergsund, CEO of Wine.com commented, “The old way of buying wine where you’re standing in front of a wall at retail with nothing to go on but labels, that’s not good enough for this generation.”