US consumers’ beverage choices change during lockdown
While the long-term impact of lockdown measures on consumer behaviour remains uncertain, for some categories there are immediate and drastic effects. One such category is beverages, which are often consumed on the go or as part of a social gathering. For brands in this category, it’s more important than ever to keep up to speed with behavioural trends in order to anticipate and respond to consumers’ rapidly changing needs.
Out of home to in-home
Before the COVID-19 outbreak, one in five beverages were consumed outside of the home. This means up to 123m occasions every day are now at risk given that up to 70% of Americans are under some form of lockdown.
And in fact, our latest data covering the last two weeks of March shows that the one in five beverages consumed out of home had shrunk to fewer than one in ten – even before widespread lockdowns came into effect at the end of that month. Those drinks brands which are most often consumed out of the home (energy, fruit and sport drinks, for example) need to understand how to position themselves for enjoyment at home – and fast.
That said, some products which are more reliant on in-home consumption will be more in demand as consumers are forced to stay home and cater for more meals themselves. During the SARS outbreak, consumption of dairy products in China increased by 3%, and we can expect similar upticks in staples like milk.
Of course, with bars and restaurants shuttered and social distancing guidance in place, there’s now limited opportunity for a drink with friends or colleagues. The potential impact of this is a reduction of 93m in weekly alcohol occasions. In our latest data we see that these shifted in home even more drastically as bars and restaurants closed before full lockdown measures kicked in.
The potential up-side for alcohol brands is that half of alcohol occasions are part of celebrating or relaxing with our partner – which we will expect to simply move back into the home. There could be opportunities for brands which give consumers a good reason to trade up to make their date night at home extra special.
Health kick or creature comforts?
Up to $1bn weekly “treat” occasions, previously enjoyed out of the home, are now open to beverages brands to play a role in bringing some joy to home-bound consumers. Ahead of quarantine measures coming into effect, it was unclear whether consumers would treat themselves to alleviate boredom, replicating what they’d usually consume out of home, or try to remain healthy during this time by seeking out healthier alternatives.
What we have seen in our latest data is actually a move toward healthier alternatives during the final two weeks of March, as Americans entered lockdown with the best of intentions. It’s crucial for beverage brands to understand how this holds up over time, as consumers settle in to their new way of life.