With sales in the US alcoholic drinks market having declined since 2009, growth finally returned to a positive trajectory in 2012 thanks to the premiumisation trend, with consumers particularly embracing dark beer (especially craft versions) and premium lager, resulting in overall positive alcoholic drinks sales.
Within spirits, a combination of factors, including increased marketing spend, economic recovery and innovation at a higher price point to capture stronger margins, drove premiumisation.
In 2012, some of the fastest growing categories in terms of both volume and value were the premium segments in cognac, blended malt Scotch whisky and single malt Scotch whisky. In 2012, super-premium vodka and gin witnessed share gains in their respective categories.
Average unit prices continued to inch up in 2012, although any dramatic overall unit price growth was halted owing to still widespread price discounting.
However, further interest is also being shown in other categories as postmodern consumers are seeking differentiation and are becoming more adventurous with their drinks choices.
Spirits, wine and in particular cider and high-strength premixes registered strong growth as consumers mixed and matched between beverage options and embraced innovation.
Post-recession, strong trading-up trends, observed particularly in spirits and beer, were driven largely by millennials and baby-boomers, fuelled by increased marketing spend, economic recovery and innovation at higher price points. Flavour innovation flooded the alcoholic drinks landscape across all price points.
Manufacturers in the maturing and fiercely competitive alcoholic drinks market are increasingly looking to flavour innovation as a means of differentiating their product offerings.
While vodka has long been the frontrunner, other drinks, including dark spirits, wine, rum, tequila, gin and even beer have now jumped on to the flavour bandwagon so as to offer differentiation in the fiercely competitive alcoholic drinks industry.
Brewers Anheuser-Busch InBev and MillerCoors remained the leading players within the US alcoholic drinks market by far but also showed signs of expansion beyond beer. They embraced change by investing in the small but dynamic cider category, through either their own brands (Michelob Ultra Cider from Anheuser-Busch InBev) or by buying an existing one (MillerCoors bought Crispin Cider).
Anheuser-Busch InBev also expanded into malt-based RTDs, capitalising on the stronger demand for flavoured beverages with the highly successful Bud Light Lime-A-Rita.
For more information on the US alcoholic drinks market, see the latest research: US Alcoholic Drinks Market
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