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When it comes to alcohol, most consumers are staying loyal to their preferred brands during the recession, according to [pdf] a recent study from The Nielsen Company.

Most Don’t Change Brand
When asked how their alcohol purchases have changed since before the start of the recession, more than three-quarters of beer (83%), wine (76%) and spirits (81%) drinkers have not changed the products they purchase.

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Only 1% of each alcohol product’s consumers say they usually purchase more expensive products since the recession began, with the remainder usually purchasing less expensive products.

Most Who Trade Down Satisfied
Of the 16% of beer consumers, 23% of wine consumers and 18% of spirits consumers who have switched to a less expensive product, the majority are satisfied with the quality of less expensive alcohol.

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Sixty-seven percent of beer drinkers, 79% of wine drinkers and 63% of spirits drinkers say they generally find good quality products at lower products. The remainder who trade down say there is a drop in quality, but the sacrifice is worth saving money for.

Trading Down Will Continue
The majority of trading down consumers say they will continue to buy less expensive products as the economy continues to improve (75% of wine consumers, 70% of beer consumers and 66% of spirits consumers). When examining those consumers that report that they would trade back up, Millennials (age 21 – 34) in particular, are relatively more likely to trade back up, compared to other age groups across all alcohol beverage categories.

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Purchase Behavior More Cautious
Even though most alcohol consumers are sticking with their preferred brands during the recession, their purchase behavior is becoming increasingly cautious. Compared to the start of the economic downturn, about one-third (36%) of consumers say their purchases are more planned, and less on impulse.

In addition, Nielsen research shows that a significant percentage of consumers claim they are going out less often now than before the economic downturn. Nearly half of consumers (47%) report going to bars or clubs less often, while an even greater number say they are paying fewer visits to casual (58%) and fine dining (60%) establishments.

On the other hand, when asked how they will change their habits as the economy improves, 37% of consumers say they will visit casual restaurants more often, while less than a third of consumers will make frequent returns to fine dining (27%) and bars or nightclubs (16%).

Interestingly, the results showed a significant generational divide. Younger Millennial consumers (aged 21-27) signaled their intent to go out much more often as the economy improved, while consumers 55 and older were much less optimistic about their future “going out” prospects.

Technomic Says Out-of-Home Alcohol Sales Set to Rise
A positive sales trend from casinos and bars should drive a rebound in US out-of-home alcohol sales during 2010, according to new figures from Technomic, which has revised its forecast for sales of beverage alcohol sold away from home upward. Technomic now expects beverage alcohol sold in bars, restaurants and other on-premise establishments to grow by 1.1% this year, up from the decline of 2.5% forecasted at the end of 2009.

About the Data: Nielsen surveyed approximately 7,500 U.S. alcohol beverage consumers of legal drinking age in April/May 2010.

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