Whether they’re beer fans or cocktail connoisseurs, US consumers are craving artisan, small-batch and craft beverages in ever-increasing numbers. Beer remains the most popular alcoholic beverage in the US, but there’s evidence that sales of spirits are on the rise as millennials increasingly opt for cocktails over brews.

Sales of liquor rose 4.1% last year, according to the Distilled Spirits Council of the United States, continuing a trend that sent liquor’s share of the alcoholic beverage market to 35% in 2015 from 29% in 2000, while beer’s share fell from 56% to 48% and wine’s portion inched up from 16% to 17% over the 15-year period.

Part of the credit for the increase may go to the bartenders behind the rise in cocktail bars from the East Coast to the West, the Wall Street Journal reported earlier this month, along with consolidation in the liquor industry that gave companies more clout when it came to promoting spirits alongside beer and wine. (read more…)

For many, ringing in a new year means clinking glasses of bubbly together in celebration. At Datassential, we’re toasting 2016 with our latest MenuTrends Keynote Report covering insights in alcoholic beverages. Our report covers all the bases, from consumer sentiment on alcohol preferences to operator data on what’s being served and where. The following is just a small shot of all of the insights covered in our report – a little aperitif to start you off.

Alcohol appeals to…

Alcoholic beverages are both widely available and widely consumed in the US. According to Datassential MenuTrends, more than half of all restaurants serve some type of alcoholic beverage. While it should come as no surprise that non-alcoholic beverages are more widely consumed in any given day (water is the most common, followed by brewed coffee), beer and wine don’t fall far behind. Beer is the most consumed alcoholic beverage, with 16% of adults drinking beer on any given day, a higher consumption rate than many non-alcoholic drinks like specialty coffee, sports drinks and energy drinks. (read more…)

Here is a question you’ve probably never heard from behind the bar: “Excuse me, bartender? Exactly how water-efficient IS that double IPA on tap?”

While I personally ask that two or three times each week, I realize it usually isn’t a top concern for most beer enthusiasts — at least not yet.

Trends, they are a-changing

“Beer drinkers will always choose their beer based upon quality, taste, and local origin,” said Cheri Chastain, sustainability manager at Sierra Nevada Brewing Co. “We focus heavily upon these three topics but we want to add one more cutting-edge issue: environmental sustainability.”

That said, Chastain is beginning to find sustainability is a brand differentiator and beer drinkers are taking notice.

“More and more, we are finding that customers are excited to learn sustainability is a core value for us, and they look for our brand on every beer menu,” she said.

Restaurateurs should take note: beverage sales are an important part of business revenue, with full-service restaurants typically earning between $1,015 and $2,901 per seat, per year for beer and wine combined, according to the National Restaurant Association’s Restaurant Operations Report 2013-2014 edition. (read more…)

Descriptions including “craft”, “small batch,” “custom,” “limited edition” and “artisan/artisanal” are more likely to influence the purchasing decisions of millennials than they are to sway older consumers, according to a recent Harris Poll. Chefs and restaurateurs are finding ways to feed the trend — the Culinary Institute of America will hold a Crafting Beer and Food Summit in October, bringing together master brewers and chefs to create menus that complement craft beers.

Millennials are driving much of the growth, as they seek out local, authentic and artisan beer, as well as wine and spirits, said NPD Group Vice President Warren Solochek. The trend in food and beverage in general is toward healthier options, but “healthy” means different things to different people, and in the case of beer, wine and spirits, local and artisan are much more relevant to millennials than calorie counts, he said.

“It’s more true of millennials than others, but it’s also catching on with those of us who are a little older chronologically,” Solochek said. (read more…)

Wine lovers may pay more attention to variety, vintage and what color goes with which dish, but some are also giving more thought to where and how the grapes were grown. Sustainable agriculture doesn’t have a fixed definition in the way “organic” has had since federal organic standards were finalized in 2000, but a growing number of consumers are seeking sustainably produced wine, and third-party certification programs are infusing the term with more meaning.

The wine industry has been open to collaborating on sustainability issues, perhaps more so than other agricultural sectors that haven’t had to band together as much in the past, said Executive Director Allison Jordan of the California Sustainable Winegrowing Alliance, an educational program formed by the Wine Institute and the California Association of Winegrape Growers that launched a statewide sustainability certification program in 2010.

Last year, the Sonoma County Winegrape Commission committed to becoming the country’s first 100% sustainable wine producing county by 2019. (read more…)