We are in the midst of some generational transitions, and baseball team owners and concessionaires should be aware of one huge trend: Americans are drinking less beer and more wine and cocktails.
Beer sales in the United States have been flat for several years, with the big macrobreweries losing market share to an abundance of small microbreweries. And while these small microbreweries are flourishing in a number of markets (you can’t throw a dead cat anywhere in the Twin Cities without it landing in a trendy, hipster microbrewery), they are bucking a clear trend: consumers, especially millennials, are drinking less beer and more wine and cocktails. From the Wall Street Journal:
Brenden Kennedy, a 32-year-old New York marketing executive, can’t remember the last time he drank a beer. His parents drank Bud Light. When he hit drinking age, he tended to reach for a prosecco.
“When I drink beer, it always feels very heavy, like empty calories, and I don’t find it’s refreshing unless it’s super, super cold,” he says. “The flavor has never really appealed to me, and it doesn’t feel sophisticated.”
According to the Beer Institute, a trade group, drinkers chose beer just 49.7% of the time last year, down from 60.8% in the mid-’90s. Among 21- to 27-year-olds, the decline has been sharper. Anheuser-Busch InBev SA, Budweiser’s owner, found that in 2016, just 43% of alcohol consumed by young drinkers was beer. In 2006, it was 65%.
Now, in the very short term, this may not matter: baseball tends to attract a demographic that likes beer and, in many cases, a lot of beer. But, in the long term, there will be missed opportunities for team owners if they don’t recognize these trends. Some operators have successfully begun a transition. Take, for example, spring-training games at Salt River Fields at Talking Stick. There, a large party deck sponsored by a local bar chain, Salty Señorita, sells a boatload of margaritas at every Diamondbacks and Rockies Cactus League match, while there are usually lines for the sangria (red and white) and the Jack Daniels stands in the concourse. (As a bonus: most wine can be advertised as gluten-free, appealing to yet another market segment.) Now, most MiLB teams won’t be able to serve Jack Daniels cocktails, of course, but wine should be considered a potential growth area, given the market.
Photo: The Great Dane Duck Blind at Warner Park, home of the Madison Mallards, which features an all-inclusive beer and food admission.