Innovation in the Liquor Category Fuels Growth

Liquor sales moderate, but long-term prospects remain strong.

March 30, 2022


By Terri Allan

ALEXANDRIA, Va.—After a pandemic-driven demand surge in 2020, the liquor category appears to be settling down. But emerging products and packages, along with trading-up trends by consumers, are encouraging distilled spirits marketers and convenience store operators that the category—while a small contributor to overall sales—is primed for continued growth.

“Liquor sales increased tremendously from 2019 to 2020, primarily as a result of COVID-19 lockdowns and bar and restaurant closures,” remarked Jayme Gough, NACS research manager. “Not only were customers unable to go out to purchase liquor in the form of cocktails from a restaurant, but they were confined to their homes in many cases, giving ample opportunity to consume more than their typical amount,” Gough said.

Indeed, according to the NACS State of the Industry Report of 2020 Data, average sales at c-stores that sell liquor jumped 15% to $44,348. C-store liquor sales, like other in-store categories, benefited from the channel’s small-footprint and convenience-focused stores at the height of the pandemic. The category reached peaks in monthly sales in April and May 2020, Gough reported.

By the spring of 2021, however, sales trends for liquor in c-stores began to moderate.

Read the rest of this NACS Magazine article in March’s Category Close-Up article “Cocktail Hour” in the digital copy of NACS Magazine.

Learn how the alcohol category performed in c-stores in 2021 and get a look at what’s ahead in the Beer/Wine/Spirits category deep dive at the NACS State of the Industry Summit, April 12-14, at the Hyatt Regency O’Hare, Chicago. Julie Farmer, adult beverage category manager, Circle K, will recap the category innovation and dynamics that drove sales and margin growth, as well as highlight how the industry’s operational agility created a playbook for navigating times of economic uncertainty. Register for the SOI Summit today.

Terri Allan is a New Jersey-based freelance writer, specializing in the beverage industry. She can be reached at and on Twitter at @terriallan.