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 beverage sales make up 54% 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 Beverage 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, convenience retailers 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, convenience retailers 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 c-store 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 2,600 Beyond Beer 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.

In c-stores the shelf solution is simple: Group all Beyond Beer products together. Most c-store retailers set their flow by singles and multipacks. If this is the case, group Beyond Beer products together—use them to lead the set in each door and flow by price and then segment.

To help shoppers in small 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.

Some retailers have started creating a Beyond Beer door by grouping all Beyond Beer products together mixing singles and multipacks into the same space. This is a great option for retailers who want to accelerate this segment and make it a destination for shoppers. In this case the Beyond Beer flow could be singles vs. multipack, flavor segment, and then individual flavors.

With each new trend in alcohol comes a new opportunity to convert a lifelong customer, and with IGNITE, convenience operators 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.  Click below to learn more about the other objectives in the IGNITE strategy, expanding consumption and driving trade up.

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

2: IRI, L52w, w/e 11.24.19

3. IRI TUS Convenience L52 Weeks Ending 8/2/20.