Nielsen: Off-Premise Sales Still up Double Digits, but Slowing

Dear Client: 

Looks like pantry loading has officially peaked. 

Total beverage alcohol sales off-premise in all Nielsen-measured channels was up 21.5% for the week ended March 28 compared to the same time a year ago. Compared to the week prior (ended March 21), the growth rate dropped 21%, suggesting it was “an ‘adjustment’ week” as consumers moved away from higher levels of stocking up recorded in previous weeks, according to Nielsen’s Danny Brager. 

Wine sales off-premise were up 27.4%, spirits sales were up 26.9% and beer was up 16.8% for the week ended March 28. 

Channel by channel growth rates fell generally for the week as well, with the Liquor Channel subsiding “to a much larger degree” than Food stores, according to Danny. 

Meanwhile, e-commerce sales continue their meteoric rise, up 291% for the week compared to the same week last year. It was the fastest growing department in percentage terms, though still off of a relatively small base. 

WINE. Many of the same patterns continued in the wine category that we’ve seen in the last few weeks, including strong growth rates for 1.5L and 750ml segments. Boxed wine also continued its popularity, up 80% for the week ended March 28.

For the month through March 28, all top wine varietals were up “large double digits,” including merlot and white zinfandel, which have “had long term historical declines.” 

Looking at the top 10 wine brands, they collectively gained 1.5 share points during the four weeks ended March 28. Within the top 10, Bota Box recorded the single biggest share jump, up 0.7 points.

SPIRITS. The ready-to-drink segment was “by far the runaway leader” in spirits, according to Danny, with off-premise sales up 72% for the week through March 28 compared to the same week a year ago. Tequila was the second-highest growing category for the week, up 45%. Cordials, gin, American whiskey and Irish whiskey were all up between 30% and 40% for the week.

Scotch was the only segment that did not grow compared to last year. 

Again, larger pack sizes dominated. For the third consecutive week, 1.75L package size outperformed the 750ml. Also, for the first time “in a very long time,” the 50ml segment declined compared to a year ago. 

The top 10 spirits brands collectively picked up 1.3 share points off-premise for the month ended March 28. Tito’s (already No.1) pulled away even further from the pack, gaining 0.8 share points. 

That’s what’s happening off-premise. Of course, on-premise growth has been negatively impacted by COVID-19 containment measures. 

Nielsen estimates that to keep volumes about flat overall, off-premise volume growth needs to be upward of 22%. For the last four weeks ended March 28, year to date volume growth in all Nielsen-measured off-premise channels were: beer up 17%, wine up 28% and spirits up 33%. 


Yesterday Wineshipping and 24 Seven Enterprises, which includes Pack n’ Ship Direct and Vin-Go, announced the completion of a merger, creating the largest bev alc direct-to-consumer logistics provider, per a release. 

The combined company will operate under Wineshipping’s parent company, DTC Logistics. The new company will have the capability to serve consumers with same-day delivery to major metropolitan areas and one to two-day ground delivery to all other locations. 

“Today, more than 50% of most product categories are purchased online and delivered directly to the consumer. Moving from brick-and-mortar to mobile devices allows consumers to shop more frequently and easily. Consumers demand their goods faster and with more visibility,” says DTC Logistics ceo Eric Lewis. “These demand shifts are driving an increased need for speed, accuracy and innovative solutions in the wine and spirits industry where less than 10% of sales are direct to consumer.” 

“Our partnership provides producers and retailers the ability to efficiently scale their DTC businesses,” says 24Seven Enterprises founder and ceo James Delaney. “We are pleased to offer the tools we have developed to better manage inventory, accuracy, forecasting and the overall consumer experience.”


Distilleries both big and small across the country have turned to producing hand sanitizer to help combat COVID-19. 

Washington-based Pursuit Distilling Company and its distribution partner Columbia Distributing have teamed up to convert unused keg beer intended for now-shuttered Washington state bars and restaurants into hand sanitizer, per a release.  

The companies have developed a way to quickly drain the kegs and then Pursuit distills the beer into neutral grain spirit for use in denatured alcohol for hand sanitizer. [Note, denatured alcohol is what is typically found in hand sanitizer and is not safe to consume.] 

“Our second challenge was delivering that type of alcohol,” says Devlin McGill, senior director of spirits at Columbia. “Fortunately, we found that Columbia already has a network of drivers that are hazmat certified so we can expedite our efforts in getting this essential material for hand sanitizer out to our state agencies. We’re extremely happy that we can help in such a meaningful way right now.” 

“I am grateful that we are able to keep our lights on and keep our team members busy,” says Pursuit Distilling ceo Sam Agnew. “Our team members have risen to the occasion. I am thankful and blessed to be in a position to pivot quickly to producing hand sanitizer and denatured alcohol for our first responders, health care facilities, and to our local community. We are in unprecedented times. We will get through this time together as a community, country, and individually.” 


B-F RELEASES SONOMA-CUTRER PINOT NOIR FINISHED IN WOODFORD BARRELS. Sonoma-Cutrer has introduced the vintage 2018 Russian River Valley Pinot Noir with Woodford Reserve Barrel Finish as part of its Winemaker’s Release series, a series of limited-production wines. The wine was aged in a one-third regimen of new, one-year and two-year old French oak, matured for 11 months, and then aged another four months in freshly emptied Woodford Reserve bourbon barrels. The wine is now available in select markets and online at for approximately $50.

MICHAEL DAVID WINERY UNVEILS NEW PACKAGING FOR LODI RED, LAUNCHES NATIONALLY. Michael David Winery’s Lodi Red features new branding for the 2018 vintage release, per a release. Lodi Red “was always popular in the tasting room, but with the package redesign, the decision was made to make this people-pleaser available nationwide,” says vp of sales and marketing Melissa Philips Stroud. The wine is a blend of petite sirah, zinfandel and carignane. The 2018 Lodi Red is available for sale and distribution in most major US markets as of April 1, with a suggested retail price of $15.

Until tomorrow,

“If the world seems cold to you, kindle fires to warm it.” – Lucy Larcom

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