Mintel says off-trade has expanded by a fifth

Mintel says off-trade has expanded by a fifth

The value of off-trade alcohol sales in the US has risen by more than a fifth over the last five years, according to new research.

Retail drinks sales for at-home consumption in the country have increased by 21% since 2004 to reach around US$80bn, market research group Mintel said today (15 July).

Its figures highlight a long-term shift to at-home drinking in the US; a shift that the alcohol industry's own statistics suggest has speeded up during the country's recession.

Mintel said that consumers are looking to save money in the off-trade, not only by avoiding bars but also by switching brands. More than a quarter of respondents to a Mintel survey said that they have traded down to cheaper drinks brands in the last year. The research firm did not detail how many consumers had been approached for the survey, however.

"About half of those who report drinking alcohol at home are drinking less than they did a year ago, but the market is still enjoying viability,” said senior Mintel analyst Goel-Lal.

The research group's findings back up industry figures.

Price wars between rival retailers and drinks firms helped the US spirits market to expand by 1.6% in volume in 2009, despite the country's economic problems, according to Beverage Information Group's recently-published Liquor Handbook.

Sales of spirits in the on-trade fell by 3% in volume in 2009, compared with 2008 levels, said the group.

Diageo said earlier this month that the development of pre-mixed cocktails for at-home drinking was dominating the Smirnoff and Captain Morgan producer's innovation agenda.

There have been signs of an upturn in the US spirits market over the last few months.

Spirits volumes in the 19 control states in the US crept up by 0.4% in May, according to the National Alcohol Beverage Control Association (NABCA).

"Rolling three-month trends were up 2.2%, with the positive trend continuing," said Sanford C Bernstein analyst Trevor Stirling in a note this month. "Notably, the impact of brand mix was marginally positive in May, for the first time in two years."