Beer Tops List of Beverage of Choice, But Wine Sees Gains in Popularity

beer-428119_1280NEW YORK, N.Y. – While consumers increasingly alternate between alcohol categories depending on the drinking occasion, everyone has a favorite beverage to sip on – a trusted go-to regardless of the time or place.

For nearly four in 10 regular drinkers (U.S. adults ages 21+ who drink alcohol several times a year or more), beer is that beverage of choice (38%), followed by wine (31%), and spirits/liquor (28%). But has it always been like this?

Most regular drinkers who say beer is their beverage of choice today also say it was their go-to alcohol beverage 2 years ago (83% of those 23+) and 10 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 2 years ago (of those 23+) and 63% 10 years ago (of those 31+).

Wine drinkers, on the other hand, tell a slightly different story. While nearly three quarters of today’s wine drinkers say they also preferred wine 2 years ago (73% of those 23+), just 4 in 10 say the same of 10 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%).

According to Danny Brager, SVP of Nielsen’s Beverage Alcohol Practice, “While many consumers will increasingly drink across all three major adult beverage categories, they still have their ‘preferred’ drink type. At the same time, all consumers are not alike, and various demographic groups clearly have different favorites. For some, that ‘go to’ choice hasn’t changed a great deal, but for a significant percentage of those who favor wine today, they did prefer another beverage type 10 years ago. 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.”

These are some of the results of The Harris Poll® of 2,148 U.S. adults ages 21+ (including 1,540 adults ages 21+ who drink several times a year or more, i.e., “regular drinkers”) surveyed online between January 18 and 20, 2017. Complete results of the study can be found here.

Demographic distinctions

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%, HH 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.

Favorite types

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%).

About The Harris Poll

Begun in 1963, The Harris Poll is one of the longest running surveys measuring public opinion in the U.S. and is highly regarded throughout the world. The nationally representative polls, conducted primarily online, measure the knowledge, opinions, behaviors and motivations of the general public. New and trended polls on a wide variety of subjects including politics, the economy, healthcare, foreign affairs, science and technology, sports and entertainment, and lifestyles are published weekly.

For more information, or to see other recent polls, please visit our new website, TheHarrisPoll.com.


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