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November 16, 2021

Finally, a grip on recessionary alcohol sales

If you recall, the recession’s effect on alcohol sales wasn’t always so clear.

Back in April, we discussed how the booze market was faring during the downturn … and couldn’t quite come to a solid conclusion.

In Canada, beer and liquor sales had risen 17.3%. In the States, they were down 9.3%. In Ireland – yes, Ireland – they had “flat-lined to the lowest they’ve been in a decade,” it was said at the time.

Now, though? Now we seem to have things figured out.

After the right data has been collected by the right people, it’s become apparent that overall recession alcohol sales have  increased, yet drinking of premium brands or drinking at restaurants and bars actually decreased.

According to Nielsen, in the U.S. at least, sales of booze officially rose 2% over the past year. (Wine was up 5.1%, spirits grew 2% and beer had risen 0.7%.)

But, again, while the overall numbers look good, consumers appear to have developed an increased sensitivity to price.

People have largely spurned expensive imports, resulting in the rise of domestic brews of every alcohol type: wine up 5%; vodka up 8.1%; beer up 3.2%.

“In addition,” the report continues, “private label wine sales grew more than 20% and private label spirits sales grew more than 10% compared to the same period a year earlier.”

On the restaurant side, the decreases might even be more impressive. A robust 68% of consumers said they were doing less fine dining as a result of the recession, and 59% were going to bars with much less frequency.

Yet maybe – as we always speculate with this kind of thing – a valuable lesson has been learned by the economic slump. 

“Only 24% of wine drinkers said they will spend more on alcohol when the economy recovers,” the report says, “while 21% of spirits drinkers plan to spend more and 18% of beer drinkers intend to spend more.”

By Jason Buckland, MSN Money



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Gordon PowersGordon Powers

A long-time fund company executive, Gordon Powers now heads up the Affinity Group, a financial services consulting firm. Gordon was a personal finance columnist for the Globe & Mail for many years, has taught retirement planning...

James HaversJames Havers

James is the senior editor of MSN Money living in Toronto. He has worked for the Nikkei Shimbun (Tokyo),,, Canadian Business and other publications. Havers turned to journalism after teaching overseas.

Jason BucklandJason Buckland

The modern-day MC Hammer of money, Jason can often be seen spending cash that isn’t his with the efficiency of a Wilt Chamberlain first date. After cutting his teeth as a reporter for the Toronto Sun, he joined the MSN Money team with...