Beer Remains Favorite Drink For U.S. Consumers, Wine Gains Ground

While consumers increasingly alternate between alcohol categories depending on the drinking occasion, everyone has a favorite beverage to sip on – and overall that remains beer.

For nearly four in ten regular drinkers (U.S. LDA consumers who drink alcohol several times a year or more), beer is that beverage of choice (38%), followed by wine (31%), and spirits/liquor (28%), according to the Harris Poll.

This yearly poll was conducted online within the U.S. between January 18 and 20, 2017, among 2,148 adults (aged 21 and over). Figures for age, sex, race/ethnicity, education, region and household income were weighted where necessary to bring them into line with their actual proportions in the population.

Most regular drinkers who say beer is their beverage of choice today also say it was their go-to alcohol beverage two years ago (83% of those 23+) and ten years ago (73% of those 31+). A majority of today’s spirit choosers say the same as well, with 78% stating they preferred liquor/spirits two years ago (of those 23+) and 63% ten years ago (of those 31+).

Wine drinkers, on the other hand, tell a slightly different story. They’re increasing in numbers.


While nearly three quarters of today’s wine drinkers say they also preferred wine 2 years ago (73% of those 23+), just four in ten say the same of ten years ago (44% of those 31+). Many of today’s wine drinkers (ages 31+) had a different top pick a decade ago and say they were instead drinking liquor/spirits (26%) or beer (21%).

“Both life stage changes over that period of time as these consumers have aged, as well as today’s younger generations being more open to wine, are likely driving those changes in preference,” explains Danny Brager, SVP of Nielsen’s Beverage Alcohol Practice,

While beer may take the cake over the years, a deeper look shows it is not everyone’s top pick. Beer is favored among men (55%), younger generations (21-34, 41%; 35-44, 44%; 45-54, 42%), and those residing in the South (43%).

Wine, however, beats out beer as the top pick among women (46%), adults ages 65+ (42%), and adults in high-income households (37%, household income of $100K+).

Spirits trail just a bit behind wine overall, but have generally equal strength in preference among various demographic groups versus larger variances seen in beer and wine across these same groups.

Adults whose current beverage of choice is beer favor domestic non-craft beer (38%), followed by craft beer (29%), and imported beer (23%).

Those who prefer wine say their favorite type is red (38%), followed by white (32%) and, more distantly, rose or blush (19%) and sparkling wine/champagne (10%). Men are significantly more likely than women to prefer red (49% vs. 34%).

The favorite liquor among spirit drinkers is vodka (29%), followed closely by whiskey (26%), and more distantly by rum (16%), tequila (8%), and cognac (7%). Men are significantly more likely than women to favor whiskey (40% vs. 14%), while women are twice as likely to choose vodka (38% vs. 19%).



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