A snapshot of the times – U.S. alcohol consumption

Consumer tastes are ever-changing. If marketers want to stay ahead of the curve, and ensure their offering best-reflects the needs of customers, it pays to keep up with the latest research.

To help, we’re launching a series of posts that offer an insight into a specific category, using data to demonstrate some interesting findings. We’re starting with alcohol consumption in the U.S, and taking a look at shifts in attitudes between generations, and spending habits.

The biggest drinkers

64 percent of Americans say they drink alcohol, with drinking most common among 30- to 49-year-olds. There are slight differences in the drink of choice depending on age.


Drink of choice: Beer

People aged 21-34 (who make up a quarter of US adults over 21) account for 35% of U.S. beer consumption, 32% of spirit consumption and 20% of wine consumption. Unlike older generations, millennials are more likely to drink socially, especially at outdoor and holiday occasions. This is the time they’re most likely to drink spirits, often in a cocktail.

Generation X

Drink of choice: Beer

According to the Technomic Generational Consumer Trend Report, 59% of 39-50 year olds drank alcohol in the last week. GenX account for 30% of U.S. beer consumption, 29% of spirit consumption, and 25% of wine consumption. Generation X are most likely to drink beer at large parties, or after-work events, while spirits are enjoyed evenly between social drinking, and drinking at home.

Baby Boomers

Drink of choice: Wine

Baby boomers drank 30% of all wine consumed in the U.S, with those aged 51-69 the largest group of those drinking wine more than once a week. This age group is more likely to enjoy a drink in the comfort of home, either alone, or with those close to them (especially true of spirits).

A Snapshot of U.S Drinkers

Trends by drink


Among wine drinkers, millennials drink the most, drinking on average 3.1 glasses per sitting, compared to 2.4 glasses for Generation X. According to Wine Market Council, in 2015 alone, consumers in their twenties and thirties drank 159.6 million cases of wine – 42% percent of all wine consumed in the U.S. that year. Baby Boomers accounted for 114.1 million cases, while Generation X consumed 74.5 million cases.


Beer is the first choice for 43% of U.S. drinkers. And while the big beer brands still dominate, the popularity of craft beer is booming. 47% of millennials prefer craft beer to the big brands, while Baby Boomers are slow to follow the trend, with craft accounting for less than 10% of their beer spend.


While older generations may stick to a favourite tipple, millennials drink from a more eclectic range, treating knowledge of distilled drinks or liquor as social currency, and will often order name brands to impress their peers. Almost 30% of young adults claim spirits are their preferred drink of choice.

Spending habits

As you might expect, when it comes to paying for alcohol, millennials are more price sensitive, with many claim price is a key influence when choosing a wine, while Generation X put more emphasis on the varietal. For Baby Boomers, "word of mouth" and the desire to try something new, are key purchase influencers.

Online purchases

In 2016, consumers made 51% of their purchases online, and while cases of alcohol are bulky, online sales are increasing for these too.

According to a Wine Market Council survey in 2015, approximately three-quarters of consumers buy wine online, with over half belonging to a winery wine club.

Buyers of wine online are likely to be over 40, married with children and have an above average household income. They’re also likely to be wine connoisseurs or enthusiasts and spend more on wine than non-online buyers.

Millennials are also increasingly buying wine online, with apps like Vivino and Delectable, helping make it easy to find a good wine, and share with online communities. This sharing is crucial, as research suggests a socially engaged consumer spends on average $317 more per year, making investment in social media channels well worthwhile for wine brands.

Make the trends work for you

For more insights and a better understanding of how you can track a purchase from promotion, to consumption, get in touch and we’ll show you what Statwolf can do.


A Typical Wine Drinker