With the shutdown of many bars and restaurants amid the pandemic, consumers increased their take-home alcohol purchases. Total alcohol sales were up 14.8% in dollar sales and 6.5% in unit sales in c-stores in 2020, according to IRI.

“COVID-19 has shifted consumption moments and behaviors with a rise in occasions related to relaxing at home, inhouse socializing and meals,” Sara Hillstrom, senior director of category development with St. Louis-based Anheuser-Busch, says. “This shift has taken many occasions once enjoyed at restaurants and bars back into the home, bringing in new and increased light buyers to the package-beverage category and driving significant growth across beer, wine and spirits alike.”

Other trends driving growth in the category include low calories, flavor-forward, meaningfully premium, and products that provide a good value.

Herb Smith, vice president of customer development with E. & J. Gallo Winery, Modesto, Calif., says hard seltzers have been driving the trend for the more health-conscious consumers. Hard seltzer brands, like E. & J.’s High Noon, are low in calories and sugar.

Mark Anthony Brands’ White Claw, Boston Beer Co.’s Truly and A-B’s Natural Light hard seltzers all saw triple-digit dollar sales growth in c-stores, according to IRI.

Alcohol Sales

Source: IRI data for the year ending on Dec. 27, 2020, in c-store sales. *Percent change from a year ago