Questioning Their Loyalty

Technomic’s finding that several of the largest and most well-established adult beverage brands are challenged while smaller labels are accelerating raised some questions from beverage pros about the state of brand loyalty. In this age of product proliferation, expanding drink portfolios and shifting flavor preferences, it’s a valid concern.

Checking in with the 2014 BarTAB report, we find brand is important to two-thirds of consumers (66%) when deciding which beer or wine to order on-premise; that figure is consistent with the portion who said the same in 2012. For mixed drinks such as rum and cola, however, behaviors appear to be changing. While 44% of consumers call or specify the brand they’d like in their mixed drink, that figure is down from 51% in 2012.

Many point to Millennials as being the least brand loyal patrons at the bar or in the retailer store, and through anecdotes, observation and our ongoing research we do find younger consumers to be more exploratory and willing to try a new drink or product. What’s interesting is that Millennials and Generation X consumers actually overindex on calling the spirits brand they prefer for mixed drinks at the bar (49% and 50%, respectively), pointing to somewhat stronger brand loyalty than other generational cohorts for these occasions. Millennials also overindex on the importance of seeing spirits brands presented when drinks are described on cocktail menus.

Millennials are aging—the oldest members of the generation are now moving into their late 30s—and their behaviors are evolving. We will examine this massive generation’s adult beverage preferences and purchasing behaviors in the upcoming Special TAB Report: Millennial Consumer Insights, and dive deeper into the role brand plays in their drink decision process.

One thing is certain: Established, large-volume brands and up-and-coming labels both must ramp up their relevance to compete in today’s marketplace. One-third of consumers (32%) report their knowledge of spirits, wine and beer has increased in the past three years, with Millennials overindexing at 47%. That curiosity provides ample opportunity to growth brand awareness and understanding, and create that all-important connection that can lead to loyalty.

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Donna Hood Crecca

A veteran of the foodservice industry, Donna Hood Crecca leads the firm’s Convenience Store Practice and is active in its Adult Beverage Practice. She develops research-based insights and recommendations for leading and emerging supplier and operator companies to enhance their go-to-market and product development programs and strategies.

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