Beer or wine or wine or beer? Who drinks what.

Figure the figures

The chart below has the latest figures from the Wine Institute showing increasing wine consumption across the US over the past decade. A host of articles have talked about the US becoming the largest market for wine in the world.

1 wine consumption in USA

It’s good news and Australian wine companies should be thinking about how they can recapture the standing and sales they had a decade ago.

Figures being figures, they are slippery buggers, and the Gallup 2016 Consumption Habits survey poll, released on August 3, starts:

“Beer remains the alcoholic beverage of choice among Americans who imbibe alcohol. While 43 per cent of Americans who drink alcohol say they prefer beer, 32 per cent say wine and 20 per cent say liquor.”

It doesn’t say wine is in decline, but shows this chart on the percentages of who drinks what. It shows beer on the increase while wine and spirits are trending down:

2 percentage who drink what

The 43 per cent who prefer beer is the highest since 2002, when it was 44 per cent. Age, wealth and gender play an important part in American drinking habits, as they do globally.

American choice of beverage by gender:

3 drinking habits

Not all Americans consume alcohol. In fact, a large amount, according to this poll, reject it totally:

4 drink or not

Income plays an important role:

  • 79 per cent of higher-income (US$75,000-plus) Americans said they imbibed
  • 63 per cent of middle-income (US$30,000 to US$75,000) Americans imbibed
  • 49 per cent of lower-income (less than US$30,000) Americans imbibed

With all the positive news circulating about Americans drinking more wine, it’s somewhat disappointing to read a poll carried out by the highly respected Gallup showing the opposite.

The reason could be the size of the survey: just 1023 people, 18 and older, living in all 50 US states and the District of Columbia.

Is it enough to judge 300 million people’s drinking habits?

Craft works

More figures, this time from the Brewers Association (US), were presented in an article by Julia Herz on the association’s website. The focus is on craft beer drinkers, and shows the strong demographic is millennials, women and Hispanics.

Herz’s article is based on a presentation at the Craft Brewers Conference, held in May in Philadelphia, where Mike Kallenberger ( and Lindsay Kunkle (The Futures Company) talked about “How to Build a Craft Beer Drinker”.

For their presentation, Kallenberger and Kunkle drew on information gathered from the 2015 US Yankelovich MONITOR survey (10,000 respondents).

Millennials are the biggest drinkers of craft beer:

Total population 21-plus Weekly beer drinkers Weekly craft beer drinkers
Millennials 29 per cent 41 per cent 57 per cent
Gen X 25 per cent 27 per cent 24 per cent
Boomers 35 per cent 27 per cent 17 per cent
Matures 10 per cent 5 per cent 2 per cent

Even with the growing sophistication of craft beers, men represent 75 per cent of the drinkers. The good side is:

“Mike [Kallenberger] pointed out that women who do drink beer weekly are just as likely as men to choose craft. Regardless of gender, close to 45 per cent of beer lovers are craft beer lovers.”  

According to the report, women are often cross-drinkers. That is, they drink both beer and wine:

Women All 21-plus Weekly beer drinkers
Beer 21 per cent 100 per cent
Craft beer 9 per cent 44 per cent
Wine 27 per cent 53 per cent
Liquor 16 per cent 37 per cent

There were positive results regarding Hispanic drinkers:

“Hispanic craft beer lovers are growing in number. One in five weekly beer drinkers and weekly craft drinkers are Hispanic, making them the second-largest cultural group among craft beer appreciators.”

Total population 21-plus Weekly beer drinkers Weekly craft beer drinkers


65 per cent 62 per cent 60 per cent
African American


12 per cent 11 per cent 10 per cent
Hispanic 15 per cent 20 per cent 21 per cent
Asian/other 6 per cent 6 per cent 9 per cent

self multi-racial

14 per cent 19 per cent 24 per cent

Points to note:

  • Many purchasers of craft beer identify with brands that are independent and local, and that align with core concepts including authenticity, community and sustainability.
  • Individual identity is more fluid and flexible than ever before and consequently values have become a more critical means for consumers to connect with brands.
  • Overt targeting of women or Hispanics may be less effective than eliminating perceived barriers to entry into the world of craft beer.
  • For both women and Hispanics, social media isn’t used for brand decisions as much.
  • Mike and Lindsay emphasised that current Hispanic craft drinkers are much more in touch with their American side than potential new drinkers, yet they aspire to biculturalism.


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