Just 20 years ago, it was America's most popular alcoholic beverage by far. Since then, per capita consumption of beer down 20 percent and despite population growth, annual domestic production has fallen down, too.
Gallup's new alcoholic preferences survey, summed up in the image above, finds that beer's lead over wine has slipped by 20 percentage points since the early 1990s. But the demographic breakdown is even more brutal. Young drinkers and nonwhite drinkers saw the steepest falls in beer preference. In other words, the fastest-growing segments of the country are also running the fastest away from brews.
Here are drink preferences among the youngest generation:
... and among nonwhites:
So what's going on here? From interviews with beverage analysts, I've collected string for a few theories:
(1) Americans care more about our health, now (because we know more about it)
Here's a look at change in drinking volume by beverage in the decade after 2001. Bottled water exploded. Tea is up. Soft drinks, beer and juice, not so much.
One explanation has been that American drinkers are more health-conscious today because there are so many studies and media reports of studies that make it impossible to be less health-conscious. This has hurt high-sugar and empty-calorie drinks that face relentless press criticism. "You're seeing that the consumer is taking a healthier look
and having more alternatives [than soda], such as
tea, and coconut
water," Thomas Mullarkey, an analyst from Morningstar, has told me. "But also, Americans have aged, and soft
drinks are most popular among teenagers and twentysomethings."