NEW YORK (January 8, 2019) – A new report released today by Rabobank, a leading global food and agribusiness bank, estimates that alcohol brands and retailers miss out on billions in online sales opportunities annually, even as alcohol ecommerce sales in the U.S. reached $2.6 billion in 2019.

“If they only look at current sales, industry executives will severely underestimate the value of their ecommerce opportunity,” said Bourcard Nesin, a beverage analyst at Rabobank and author of the “2020 Alcohol Ecommerce Playbook” report. “There is no doubt consumers will move their beverage spending online. The question is whether beverage companies and retailers have the vision to invest proactively in their ecommerce capabilities.”

In the report, Nesin argued that industry leaders must consider the value of missed sales opportunities, the future importance of online shopping for younger generations entering their prime spending years and how online experiences influence consumer behavior in-store.  

The report categorizes alcohol ecommerce into four channels, each with distinct challenges and opportunities: online grocery, alcohol marketplaces, direct-to-consumer (DtC) wine online, and online liquor stores.  

  • Online Grocery: Includes supermarkets and other general food and beverage retailers that offer online alcohol sales. Sales reached $295 million, growing 115 percent year-over-year (YOY) in 2019.
  • Alcohol Marketplaces: Platforms for brands to sell their alcohol online (i.e. Drizly or Minibar). Sales reached $265 million, growing 60 percent YOY.
  • DtC Wine Online: Includes wine sales processed through a winery website and shipped directly to consumer without involvement of a distributor. Sales reached $950 million, increasing by at least 9 percent last year. 
  • Online Liquor Stores: Pure play liquor retailers with ecommerce capabilities. It is the most mature channel, with sales reaching $1.1 billion annually.  

Supermarkets are currently the largest channel for alcohol sales. But with more than 10 percent of all grocery expected to move online over the next four years, grocers without an alcohol ecommerce strategy will miss out on $3.7 billion in alcohol sales by 2023.

According to the report, alcohol is the fastest growing category in grocery, but its share of online sales is nearly 90 percent lower than its share of in-store sales. Increased alcohol sales can be a boost for major grocery store chains that are under pressure to grow their online grocery sales overall.

To maximize sales opportunities, companies should ensure the online buying process is a seamless experience for consumers. The report explains that many ecommerce teams lack the resources to provide sufficient content and adequate product information for the many websites and sales platforms online.

“Consumers are rapidly moving their food and beverage spending online, creating new shopping habits and brand relationships in the digital world.” Nesin said. “If the alcohol industry does not act quickly, their brands will be left out of this important relationship-building process. Ecommerce, rather than a source for growth, could then become a wedge separating alcohol brands from their consumers.”

For more information and access to the report, please visit https://bit.ly/2SZTpc0.


About Rabobank

Rabobank Group is a global financial services leader providing wholesale, rural and retail banking, leasing, and real estate services in more than 39 countries worldwide. Founded over a century ago, Rabobank today is one of the world’s largest banks with over $665 billion in assets. In the Americas, Rabobank is a premier bank to the food, agribusiness and beverage industry, providing sector expertise, strategic counsel and tailored financial solutions to clients across the entire food value chain. Additional information is available on our website or on our social media platforms, including Twitter and LinkedIn.

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