How Convenient, Episode 20: Insights Uncorked, How Alcohol Promotions are Key to Category Growth

Shaken and stirred by changing consumer tastes and tech innovations, alcohol is the c-store category on everyone’s lips.
 Allison Berti guest hosts this week's episode of How Convenient with Sarah Herrity, Koupon's National Director of Brand Partnerships to forecast opportunities for retailers to capitalize on alcohol promotions during the remainder of 2021.
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Allison Berti: In this episode, we highlight trends among alcohol consumers. Welcome to How Convenient, a new podcast about the essential role convenience stores play in the busy lives of consumers. Our hope is to equip innovative C-store leaders as they seek to earn lasting shopper loyalty. In each weekly episode, we will briefly share an update on the C-store sales trends and what we're learning from billions of in store purchase transactions. Today's episode was reported on May 6, 2021. I'm Allison Berti with Koupon, today I'm joined by Sara Herrity. Sara, for those who haven't met you yet introduce yourself and tell us what have you been thinking about recently?

Sara Herrity: Thanks for having me Allison, I'm excited to be here as this is my first time on a podcast. I'm Sara Herrity. I am a director on Koupon's brand partnership team working with many CPG brands. As you know Allison, May is mental health awareness month so I've been thinking a lot about ways I can fill my bucket as well as my kids' bucket from meditating to eating healthy, to exercising regularly. But I think the bucket filling activity I am most excited about is taking my kids to a Cubs game this Sunday. It'll be my youngest son's first time going to a baseball game so I'm really looking forward to it.

Allison Berti: That sounds so much fun. I'm very jealous you guys are going to a baseball game. A spring weekend baseball game sounds like the perfect fill-your-bucket-up activity so I hope you guys have a lot of fun.

Sara Herrity: Yes, I'm sure we will and sure there'll be a lot of purchases, both from cotton candy and hot dogs and maybe even a few adult beverages.

Allison Berti: Absolutely. Hey, you have to make it through 9 innings somehow. And that brings us to today's topic. With summer on its way, we wanted to highlight some trends we're seeing in alcohol. We previously touched on the category in episodes five and nine about hard seltzers, so if you'd like to dig more into this fast-moving category, make sure to check those out and as always, we'd love your feedback. We'll let you know how you can share that with us in a few minutes.

For today's flash, we're looking at the week ending in May 2nd. In store sales were up 4% versus a year ago, alcohol sales were up 8%, candy up 3%, beverages up 6%, tobacco up 1%, food up 2%, and snacks were flat. Total in-store trips are up 6% and basket spend is up 1%. as trips grow, basket sizes are normalizing.

It's great to see such strong performance, but the year ago, comparisons are becoming less important. Are things improving each week compared to the previous week? On a week over week basis, sales are up 3%.

Koupon runs dozens of alcohol promotions each month, which gives us a wealth of insights into the category innovation trends and what is resonating with consumers. Today we're going to share a few of those with you to equip you as you seek to take advantage of the tremendous opportunity you have to reach alcohol consumers. Sara, what have we learned from the data?

Sara Herrity: One thing that we've learned that probably won't surprise our listeners is that millennials make up about 45% of alcohol purchases. This is important to brands because they are eager to reach younger consumers who represent a significant growth opportunity for years to come. Many millennials and even Gen Z are open to new brands, styles, flavor profiles, which benefits both the establishment, as well as those emerging brands. There's also a gender component driving growth in alcohol with hard seltzers, ready to drink cocktails and wines all demonstrate any more balanced resonance on gender than the traditional profile of a beer drinker. Next step is geography. This is important as brands try to seek and reach specific markets and be able to measure the effectiveness of their campaigns within those market. Lastly, as they ever important redemption trends, 37% of all purchases occur between the hours of 2:00 PM and 6:00 PM with most purchases occurring on Friday and Saturday.

Allison Berti: Okay. Well, I had my suspicions that Friday and Saturday saw the highest alcohol purchases during the week so it's good to see the data backs that up. Sara, you spend a lot of time working with alcohol brands, so we love your perspective. Are you seeing any new trends like emerging brands or growing sub categories?

Sara Herrity: One of the things we have seen is alcohol sales is up in 2020 versus a year ago about 13%, and surprisingly hard seltzer is up 223% leading the pack in terms of growth. But was a little bit more surprising is cider. Cider sales were down 11% in 2020 declining, more than any other sub category within the alcohol category. It could be that as seltzer continues to grow in popularity, consumers are switching from cider to seltzer as their fruity beverage alternatives. Another emergence is the ready to drink cocktails category. There we're seeing a big impact coming from that particular sub category.

Allison Berti: Yeah, and it'll be interesting to continue to watch the growth of ready to drink cocktails. It's a drink all about convenience so growth in the convenience store space seems very likely. Alcohol was a powerful category in the convenience channel. What's your forecast for the remainder of 2021 and how can retailers capitalize on the opportunity?

Sara Herrity: I expect the alcohol sales to continue to grow in the convenience store channel going into summer of 2021. In my view, there are two ways retailers can capitalize on this opportunity. First is diversity of product offerings. Really trying to meet those consumers with their changing pace. So, making sure you have a set in your store from beer to seltzer to ready to drink cocktails to even wine. The second opportunities for retailers and brands, is to digitize promotional offerings to consumers. By digitizing promotional offerings, it gives both the brands and the retailers more touch points to engage with their consumers, from their apps to email blast, to SMS messaging, to social posts, to even utilizing digital media.

Allison Berti: Great. Well, we will continue to watch these trends and share updates in future episodes. Before we go, Sara, I have to ask, what is your go-to product at your local store? Are you a salty snack person? Candy?

Sara Herrity: For me, salty snacks and water and then if I'm with my kids, they seem to go more slushy, candy routes.

Allison Berti: Yeah, well they sound like they have excellent taste. Thanks so much for joining us today. Sara, we hope to have you back soon.

Sara Herrity: It was great. Thank you for the opportunity.

Allison Berti: In our next episode, we will continue discussing 2021 insights for the focus on consumer loyalty trends. Thank you for listening to How Convenient. If there's a topic you'd like us to cover or you think we got it wrong, we want to hear from you. You can reach us at Don't forget to subscribe and review us, and you can find more insights at Thanks everyone.