Consumer Resilience in Alcohol: 2021 Wine & Spirits Forecast

International consulting firm Kearney conducted numerous consumer surveys and analyzed wine and spirits and macroeconomic data trends over 2020 – including data from SipSource – to determine what we can expect to occur in the marketplace in 2021. This webinar explored what the data reveals and Kearney’s predictions for shifts in consumer alcohol purchasing behavior in 2021. Recorded on Thursday, January 14, 2021. 



  • 2020 was a year that defied all expectations, proving the resilience of the wine & spirits consumer. Despite the COVID-19 pandemic, we saw 2020 close with case volume for wine & spirits growing 2.3% over 2019. 

  • Traditional forecasting models that extrapolate from the recent past are of no use under COVID-19 circumstances. The solution is to imagine multiple plausible futures rolling towards us and make plans or all of them. We see four plausible scenarios for 2021 based on a combination of the effectiveness of the COVID-19 vaccine and the timing of economic recovery.

  • We project 2020 growth to slow in 2021 with case volume growth ranging from -5.8% (worst case) to 3.0% (best case).

  • Even in our best-case scenario, we do not project the on-premise reaching pre-pandemic consumption levels in 2021.

  • With pantries stocked and expected modest recovery of on-premise consumption by mid-year, we see little chance that the exceptional volume growth experienced in 2020 recurs in 2021. If consumers return to pre-pandemic consumption behaviors, 2021 could see an unprecedented decline of up to 12% in off-premise sales volume as consumption returns to historic levels.

  • E-commerce and DTC purchase volume accelerated 4 to 5 times since the onset of the pandemic. Moving forward, roughly two-thirds of consumers surveyed said they expect to use this channel for beverage alcohol purchases in 2021.

  • Across these scenarios, we believe the most likely outcome for wine & spirits growth in 2021 is low single-digit growth.

  • Decision-makers should engage in strategic scenario planning to prepare for the unprecedented uncertainty. Planning based on a single presumed future guarantees that you will be wrong. We see a portfolio of 5 strategic actions executives can take now to prepare for all scenarios:

    1. Build operational capabilities to ensure supply chain adaptability,

    2. Promote data-driven decision-making over intuition,

    3. Match cost structures to channel needs,

    4. Commit to adopting e-commerce and digital tools, and

    5. Evaluate potential partnerships to accelerate growth.



  • Media Inquiries: Send follow-up questions to Michael Bilello at

  • To learn more about SipSource, contact Nicole Anderson at

  • Interested in becoming a WSWA member? Contact Catherine McDaniel at