America Drank Less Wine For First Time In 25 Years

Posted: Jan 14, 2020

America's love affair with wine is waning.

Americans bought less wine last year, the first such drop in a quarter of a century, as millennials opt for alternatives like hard seltzers, cocktails and nonalcoholic beer.

The volume of wine purchased in the U.S. declined 0.9% in 2019, the first time it has fallen since 1994, according to industry tracker IWSR. The trend was ascribed to a generational shift as the number of millennials surpasses baby boomers, who drove strong demand for wine in America.

"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."

Sales of wine under $10 a bottle have recently made up most of the category-but have fallen in recent years, offsetting a rise in more expensive bottles. Lower-priced wines are more likely to be drunk more quickly rather than stored, one reason IWRS believes its data show a drop-off in consumption.

Overall, U.S. wine sales by value rose 1.1% from a year earlier to $38.3 billion.

The figures highlight how changing demographics and tastes are affecting the alcohol industry. Americans have drunk less alcohol in recent years amid rising concerns about health and competition from other beverages such as ready-to-drink tea, sparkling water and coffee. In 2019, the nation drank 0.3% more alcoholic drinks, after two years of annual declines.

The Wine Institute, a California trade body, said while consumption has fallen off in recent years, it expects millennials to start drinking more wine as they get older, just like baby boomers did. It said its own figures don't align with IWSR's and show wine volumes grew last year. IWSR said its data show consumption and not shipments to distributors, which the Wine Institute measures.

For decades, wine benefited from the theory that drinking in moderation-particularly red wine-was good for the heart. More recently, studies have disputed that finding, suggesting any amount of alcohol can raise cancer risks and that the benefits of drinking are more limited than once thought.

And baby boomers are drinking less because of lower disposable income, smaller homes-making wine harder to store-and health concerns, said IWSR.

By Saabira Chaudhuri
January 13, 2020
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