Are people drinking as much compared to this time last year?

Graeme BruceBusiness Data Journalist
April 14, 2020, 9:03 PM UTC

Despite the mass closure of bars and restaurants, the alcohol sector remains largely resilient to COVID-19’s impact on businesses, according to YouGov Plan and Track data.

When comparing the last quarter to the same timeframe in 2019, consumer appetite for alcohol hasn’t seen a significant change. In the last three months, one in three Americans said they were likely or very likely to purchase alcoholic brands. This figure is comparable to this time (March 2019) last year, when 35% of Americans said they were likely to buy alcohol within the next 30 days.

These findings support those from a poll conducted in late March, in which roughly half (52%) of Americans who normally drink said their alcohol consumption hadn't changed in the first weeks of the COVID-19 pandemic. A large share indicated their habits did change: One in five American drinkers said they were consuming more alcohol in the first weeks of the pandemic while a quarter (25%) were drinking less.

Alcohol consumption in the United States is largely “off-trade,” meaning purchased from a retailer rather than “on-trade” (consumed at a bar or restaurant). Despite restaurant closures, the pace of consumption has largely remained steady.

YouGov data suggests retail-purchased alcohol consumption is the highest among occasions pertaining to partner/spouse and everyday drinks for alcohol purchased from retail outlets.

Many states have designated liquor stores as essential businesses and therefore can remain open during COVID-19. A little more than two in five (42%) of Americans believe liquor stores should be deemed essential, while the same amount (42%) say they shouldn't. 

As for specific brand performance, Guinness for example has seen a positive change in Consideration Score as well as Ad Awareness in the US, possibly due to its social distancing St. Patrick’s Day promotions.

Bar and restaurant alcohol consumption is high at occasions around drinks with every day meals, but as the lockdown continues to upend nightlife (and life in general), we’re seeing a decline in intention to purchase from all types of restaurants including casual, fast casual, fast food and steakhouses compared to last year.

While many restaurants now offer delivery options to adhere to social distancing rules, others in the US want the ability to deliver beer and wine as well. In Canada, the Ontario provincial government has changed the rules to allow for such sales.

A third (33%) of Americans say they’d be at least somewhat interested in getting cocktails/alcoholic drinks to-go from a local restaurant or bar, according to a recent YouGov survey.