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Unless otherwise noted, the following data and results relate to Memorial Day weeks in 2021 (2 weeks ending June 5, 2021) versus Memorial Day weeks in 2020 and 2019 (2 weeks ending May 30, 2020 and 2 weeks ending June 1, 2019) in NielsenIQ off-premise channels.

The overall fast-moving consumer goods (FMCG) market had a fairly successful Memorial Day, with dollar sales up 1.4% over 2020 and 14% over 2019. Alcohol sales outside of the hospitality sector decreased on Memorial Day 2021 compared to 2020, which was expected given the return of alcohol sales at takeout restaurants. While Memorial Day is usually a holiday for outdoor establishments, this year was the first major holiday since the lifting of many CDC restrictions across the country, resulting in more alcohol and food in the establishment than in previous years. Nonetheless, overall alcohol consumption continues to skew toward out-of-home consumption, as shown by a comparison to two years ago, with a 17% increase in total out-of-home alcohol sales as of Memorial Day week 2019.

On the spot.

CGA, a NielsenIQ partner, presented key Memorial Day data from the CGA Covid Impact Consumer Research Wave 21 survey, as well as total sales data (BeverageTrak data through May 31, 2021).

Memorial Day has traditionally been more of a holiday away from home, yet 44% of consumers say they plan to celebrate the holiday, 18% of which will be at a cafe or restaurant.

US performance for 2021 is up +43% from the previous Monday, and is generally +30pp higher than 2019, where performance was only up +13% from the previous week. Compared to 2019, the value rate is also +30% higher, with the average POS earning $10,825 (versus $8,302 in 2019). This is largely due to the higher average value of the cheques, because although +5% more tickets were sold that day, the average value of the cheques rose from $35 to $43, an increase of +24%.

Positive trends were also seen on Memorial Day compared to the previous Monday in key states, with California (+58%) performing the best – but consider that these states also had the best performance in 2019 (+28%). New York (+43%), Texas (+40%), Illinois (+39%) and Florida (+31%) also did well compared to the previous Monday. All states also saw large increases over 2019, led by states that have historically been more open by COVID – Texas (+39% over 2019) and New York (+43%).


Memorial Day is the second largest holiday of the year outside of beer. In a way, it sets the tone for the category’s performance over the summer and is sometimes an indicator of which segments will do well in the coming months and which will lag in terms of sales. Due to the unique timing for alcohol in 2020, all future dollar growth comparisons will be compared to the weeks of Memorial Day 2019 (2 weeks ending 01/06/19).

Base beer (excluding FMB, cider and cello) is up slightly in dollar volume, 1.9%, over 2019. The main growth in the core beer segment came from imports, mainly Mexican import brands (+17.3%), super premium beers (+10.7%) and craft beers (+4.1%). On this important holiday for breweries, the lower Premium (-11.4%), Premium Light (-5.3%) and Premium Regular (-4.8%) beers suffered the greatest losses.

The biggest growth in the category came from the non-beer segments, and the topper in terms of real dollar change was Strong Seltzer, up 297% on 2019 sales and 10.7% on 2020 Memorial Day sales. At this time last year, strong seltzer was approaching 10% market share in the category (9.8%). By Memorial Day 2021, strong seltzer accounted for 12%, or 11.7% of total dollars in the hospitality industry. By comparison : That’s the same dollar share for craft beer in NielsenIQ’s non-commercial channels during the week of Memorial Day. Although sales of seltzer have slowed in recent months, it remains one of the few segments with sales exceeding 2020 – an indication that seltzer will once again be one of the top drinks consumed outside pubs this summer.

Other non-beer segments that showed significant growth in 2019 include FMB (+4.3%), strong kombucha (+232%) and strong tea (+59%). Most of these segments also grew in dollar terms year-on-year, with the exception of FMB (-11.7%), but hard kombucha (+32.4%) and hard tea (+18.2%) showed strong growth.

In the 2 weeks ending 6/6/21, the top 5 brands in this category were Bud Light, Modelo Especial, Mich Ultra, Coors Light and Corona Extra. All but one brand is behind in sales on Memorial Day 2020. The list of top brand extensions for Memorial Day includes a sea of seltzers, with 9 of the top 10 brands representing seltz or strong flavor extensions introduced this year. Twisted Tea is the only seltzer-free brand in the top 10 growing brands.


On Memorial Day 2021, retail sales in almost all alcohol categories are lower than on Memorial Day 2020. Compared to Memorial Day 2019, however, nearly every category of spirits is up, and in most cases by double digits. Whiskey contributed the most to overall dollar growth at 28%, followed by tequila at 87%. Tequila even outperformed Memorial Day 2020 sales, which were up 3.9% year over year.

Ready-to-drink cocktails continue to grow rapidly, with sales up 496% in 2019 and 111% in 2020. RTD cocktail market share increased the most of any alcoholic beverage category on Memorial Day, up 2 points from a year ago. During the two-week period, soft drink sales accounted for 3.7% of total dollar sales of alcoholic beverages, surpassing dollar sales of gin in the channels tracked by NielsenIQ outside of the hospitality sector.


In the two weeks ending 6/5/21, almost all wine segments were down from Memorial Day 2020. But how are wine and Memorial Day doing in 2019? Compared to the two weeks ended 6/1/19, total wine volume in non-production channels increased 14.3%, with sparkling wines leading the growth at 38.6% and table wines at 7.1%. French champagne is the big growth driver, up 87% in 2019 and 23.9% in 2020. Remember, French champagne started to grow strongly in dollars around this time last year, so we are now facing a slowdown from last year, and yet the segment continues to grow at double-digit rates. (Last year, on Memorial Day, retail sales of French champagne were up 51% from the year before.)

Wine cocktails continue to grow, up 47% from last year and 247% from two years ago. Other growing segments include flavored wines, which are up 16.4% from last year and 86% from two years ago, and non-alcoholic wines, which, while still very small, have nearly doubled in the past two years and are up 88% from Memorial Day 2019.

With sales of almost all wine segments in the OTC channels still well above normal, especially compared to 2019, it is useful to look at stock trends to better understand which segments are performing best in wine. Compared to Memorial Day 2019, table wine decreased 5.3 points, sparkling wine increased 2.0 points (French champagne increased 1.2 points), flavored wine increased 1.2 points and wine cocktails increased 2.2 points. All segments gaining market share tend to be also segments that attract younger consumers who are of legal drinking age. In the long run, this could benefit the wine industry by attracting young millennials and Generation Z through non-traditional wine segments such as flavored wines and cocktails, and then expanding into the table wine space.


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