Optimize The Shelf For New Drinkers With Trending Alcohol Beverages

Learn more about Invite In, the first recommendation of Anheuser-Busch’s IGNITE initiative

For new shoppers of legal drinking age, learning to navigate the beer aisle is like learning a new language—and choosing between styles, flavors and price points can feel like a shot in the dark. Even consumers who have years of experience in shopping the alcohol section may see certain beverage styles as foreign territory. A seasoned wine connoisseur, for example, may be less familiar with beer and may avoid the section altogether simply because they don’t know how to choose the right beverage for their tastes and preferences.

That’s where IGNITE, Anheuser-Busch’s comprehensive strategy for driving category growth across total alcohol, comes in.  The first pillar of the IGNITE strategy is getting the fundamentals right.  The second pillar, Invite In, aims to help optimize the shelf for new drinkers with strategies backed by Anheuser-Busch’s expansive research into consumer preferences, shopping behaviors and drinking occasions. Two main consumer demographics are the focus: new drinkers of legal drinking age (LDAs) and non-beer drinkers, especially women.

Drive growth by inviting new drinkers into the category


IGNITE helps retailers to understand these prospective customers’ drinking preferences and to use these insights to inform shelf sets and merchandising.

Savor the Flavor

Flavor-forward beverages from the Beyond Beer category, such as seltzers, ciders, RTDs, flavored malt beverages and cheladas, are star players in category shelf expansion for retailers. In fact, IGNITE reports that Beyond Beer sales make up 55% of growth in beer sales.

The first growth driver in the IGNITE strategy provides recommendations on how to attract new drinkers (consumers of legal drinking age, or LDAs, and women) to the category with on-trend, flavor-forward Beyond Beer styles that are especially likely to appeal to new shoppers.  These easy-to-drink, lighter, flavor-forward beverages represent a new and incremental growth opportunity for the beer category.

Some consumers have started to view Beyond Beer in the same way that they view canned wine and canned cocktails, so much so that a 4th category is emerging. This 4th category we refer to as Hard Beverages, which is distinct from beer, wine and spirits and is driving total alcohol growth. There is a unique opportunity for the 4th category to occupy its own location in the store, adding incremental space in total alcohol and creating growth that is INCREMENTAL to the beer category.

Attracting Women and LDAs to Beer and Beyond Beer

LDAs and women show an especially strong potential for growth within the flavor-forward Hard Beverages segment.   These demographics are seeking sweeter, easier-to-drink alcohol choices.  Household penetration of FMB, Cider, and fruit/shandy beers is highest with 21- to 34-year-old households, while the exact opposite is true for lagers.  This trend carries into the wine aisle, where the sweeter styles, such as moscato, riesling, and rosé, have the highest HH penetration with 21-34-year olds. Additionally, 52% of women report preferring the taste of wine because of its ‘sweetness and balance’.

As these demographics seek out on-trend flavor, sweetness, and easier-to-drink beverages, they can incorrectly deselect the beer category, assuming a bitter taste that does not match their taste preferences.

By offering familiar flavors as well as newly trending beverages in the beer and Beyond Beer categories, grocers can provide an accessible starting point for new drinkers beginning to branch out. Consumers come for the new experiences and approachable flavors, and they stay for the new favorite beverages they discover. By highlighting convenience, approachability and sessionability, grocers can more easily attract shoppers to Hard Beverages.


Source: Mintel RTD Beverage report, Dec 2018

Savvy Merchandising Goes a Long Way

It’s not enough for retailers just to stock trending and innovative beverages: Smart merchandising attracts shoppers to the beverages they’ll love. Aisle placement, signage and displays are foundational in creating a shoppable shelf that catches customers’ attention and draws them in.

The key attribute of Beyond Beer is that it offers shoppers variety, both in taste profile and in flavor.  With over 80 Beyond Beer SKUs in the average large format store, and more than 2,600 total SKUs in the market, this variety can overwhelm shoppers and make it hard to find something they will enjoy. That’s why it’s essential we get it right at the shelf.

The Beyond Beer shelf should be organized based on how shoppers think about this segment.  Anheuser-Busch research has found that taste profile is the first, and most important, decision shoppers make. Meaning, they start their shopping trip knowing they want something sweet, light and refreshing, or even savory and complex.

To help shoppers in large format, we recommend  organizing the shelf first by taste profile, from least intense to most intense.  Start with the light and refreshing products, which are Seltzers, hard waters, Agua Frescas and hard kombuchas. Then comes crisp & dry ciders.  Those will lead into the sweet products - the FMBs. Last are the complex and savory products like Cheladas.


We believe perfect execution would set the shelf flow by taste profile, add signage which describes the flavor profile to ease shopper navigation, and place Beyond Beer at the end of the aisle.  Just as these Beyond Beer products invite new drinkers into the category, they can also attract new shoppers into the aisle.  20% of Beyond Beer shopping trips are impulse, and 10% of the trips are from shoppers who are new to the category.  This makes Beyond Beer the perfect anchor for the end of the aisle.  

As a high impulse segment, Beyond Beer has strong performance when on display.  In MULO Beyond Beer has a 47% lift when on display only and 99% lift when on both feature and display.* This is double the effectiveness of any other beer segment.  

Displays are especially important in the summer which represents 47% of all Beyond Beer sales.**

The first principle of Beyond Beer displays is location, location, location. Displays should be placed in high-traffic, high-visibility areas. There is also an opportunity to place incremental Beyond Beer displays away from the beer department to capture shoppers who typically avoid the beer aisle.

The second principle of Beyond Beer displays is to merchandise multiple segments at the same time.  Displays with two or more segments have twice the lift as displays with only one.  Shoppers are looking for variety from this segment, and cross-category displays are a great way to showcase the variety and drive impulse purchases and increase basket size.

Effective merchandising support, combined with selling the right styles, is essential to inviting and retaining newcomers to the beer and Beyond Beer categories.

With each new trend in alcohol comes a new opportunity to convert a lifelong customer, and with IGNITE, grocers can learn which styles and categories appeal to new drinkers and how to maximize the appeal of these products on the shelf. To learn more about IGNITE and to build customized strategies to invite new 21+ drinkers to the category, contact your local Anheuser-Busch Category Management representative.

*IRI MULO Average SKUs per store, L13w, w/e 11.29.19

**IRI, L52w, w/e 11.24.19