After 13 years of gains, spirits have overtaken beer in total U.S. sales. The Distilled Spirits Council of the United States (DISCUS) reported that Americans spent $37.6 billion on spirits in 2022. That was enough to give spirits 42.1% of the market, edging ahead of beer’s 41.9% market share.
“Despite the tough economy, consumers continued to enjoy premium spirits and fine cocktails in 2022,” said Chris Swonger, president and CEO, DISCUS. “Cocktail culture continues to thrive in the United States, supporting jobs in the distilling, hospitality and agriculture sectors.”
Premixed cocktails (including ready-to-drink products) were the fastest growing category, shooting up 35.8% in 2022 to $2.2 billion in revenue. Tequila/mezcal ($6 billion) and American whiskey ($5.1 billion) were also fast risers. Vodka sales were flat at $7.2 billion and cordials grew slightly to $2.9 billion. Sales of brandy and cognac declined 12.3% to $3.1 billion.
According to the AP, beer captured 58% of the market as recently as 2000. Bart Watson, chief economist at the Brewers Association, a craft beer industry trade group, said that liquor has become 20% cheaper relative to beer in recent decades.
Benj Steinman, president of Beer Marketer’s Insights, a leading beer industry trade publication, pointed to increasing advertising by the spirits industry. “They’ve increased their availability. They’ve increased their ability to advertise. They’ve had a lot of legislative and policy wins that have enabled growth for distilled spirits,” Steinman told the AP.
Brewers are diversifying, adding canned cocktails to their product lines. In one example, Sam Adams maker The Boston Beer Company debuted Loma Vista Tequila Soda in October 2022.
“Cocktail Hour” in the March 2022 issue of NACS Magazine reported that 30.2% of c-stores sold spirits in 2020, accounting for $44,348 in sales per store.
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