Hometown Spirits

There are many ways to identify consumers’ hometowns without asking where they live. Accents, sports jerseys, using certain words and other regional characteristics often give away whether someone is from Seattle, New York, Boston, New Orleans or some other city.

But what about favorite drink? How does a consumer’s hometown influence their spirit of choice? We set out to answer that question, which turned out to be even more complex than we imagined.

Setting aside stereotypes and assumptions, we looked at a number of data sources to determine which spirits categories dominate each of 25 major metropolitan markets. Some of the results confirm preconceived notions like tequila’s popularity in the southwest, while others are more surprising.


Collecting the Data

The data used in this analysis comes from two proprietary Beverage Information & Insights Group sources – the 2013 Liquor Handbook and Shelftrac.

The Liquor Handbook has tracked distilled spirits sales and consumption for more than 50 years. Each June the 300-page volume offers data including a 12-year history on each spirit category, a ranking of the top 150 brands, breakdowns of advertising expenditures and more. For this analysis, we used major metro market consumption (on- and off-premise) data from 2012.

Shelftrac is a quarterly stocking study that provides brand-level distribution, shelf placement and pricing information for a panel of 1,500 retail outlets that include grocery, drug and liquor stores – both chain and independent. For the purposes of this analysis, we used average number of facings (bottles facing the consumer on the shelf) from the December 2013 and March 2014 audits.


Presenting the Data

Mapping the top spirit category by market creates a very boring chart, since the top category by consumption and by facings is vodka in every city. However, when vodka is removed from the equation certain trends become clearer.

The following data sets each contain four maps. In each case the map shows the top spirit category by market, but the data set is changed for each map. The first in each set includes all spirits; the second removes vodka and includes all other spirits; the third removes vodka and rum; the fourth removes vodka, rum and cordials.

Rum and cordials were chosen as the next two logical spirits categories to remove because the top categories using national data were vodka, rum and cordials (in descending order).

The markets covered include:

  • San Francisco/Oakland
  • Los Angeles/Orange County
  • San Diego
  • Seattle (Consumption only)
  • Las Vegas (Facings only)
  • Phoenix
  • Denver
  • Dallas/Fort Worth
  • Houston
  • Kansas City
  • St. Louis, Minneapolis
  • New Orleans (Consumption only)
  • Milwaukee
  • Chicago
  • Indianapolis
  • Detroit
  • Atlanta
  • Jacksonville/Orlando
  • Tampa
  • Miami
  • Washington, D.C.
  • Baltimore
  • Philadelphia
  • New York/Northern NJ
  • Boston
  • Buffalo (Facings only)


Top Spirit Consumption by Market

Including all spirit categories, vodka is the top seller in all 25 markets analyzed.

After removing Vodka from the data set, the top spirit by consumption in more than half the markets analyzed is Rum. Tequila comes out on top in six southwestern markets, while Canadian Whisky, American Whiskey and Gin each top one market (Seattle, Kansas City and Atlanta, respectively).

Taking out Rum and Vodka allows some interesting trends to surface. Tequila still dominates southwestern markets, but Cordials take over a number of eastern cities, while American Whiskey expands in the midwest and south. Brandy/Cognac also takes the top spot in Minneapolis, Milwaukee and Baltimore.

Removing Cordials from the data clarifies the regional differences even more. There are clear favorites at each international border (Tequila from California to Texas, Canadian Whisky in Seattle and Detroit). American Whiskey has a stronghold from Denver to Washington, D.C. to all three Florida markets, while Brandy/Cognac picks up the Chicago market to create a line from Minneapolis to Baltimore. And Scotch takes over the top spot in Boston and New York.


Top Spirit Facings by Market

Including all spirit categories results in vodka coming in at number one in all 25 markets.

After removing Vodka from the data set, the top spirit by facings for nearly every market is Rum. San Francisco/Oakland is the only exception, where Tequila narrowly edges out rum at the top.

Taking rum out of the data expands Tequila’s reach into the east coast and Chicago, earning the top spot in 11 markets. Cordials dominate the northeast, while American Whiskey forms a stronghold around the southern states and into the midwest.

After removing cordials from the data, Tequila and American Whiskey split the country with Tequila taking 14 markets to American Whiskey’s 11. With the exception of Chicago and Washington, American Whiskey takes the top spot in every market within a 500 mile radius of Kentucky and Tennessee.


Analysis and Conclusions

As expected, vodka and rum outshine every other spirits category (with vodka far surpassing rum as well) for consumption and facings. However, by taking out the large volume spirits, regional differences in spirit popularity become clear.

Tequila is most popular in the southwest; Canadian Whisky near the Canadian border; American Whiskey in the southeast and midwest. To a smaller extent, we can see Scotch’s popularity in the northeast and Gin’s stronghold in Atlanta.

The two data sets’ results differ for a number of reasons, namely the fact that facings do not take on-premise sales into account.


Plans for Further Research

Using this analysis as a starting point, it will be interesting to look at category popularity data versus demographic makeup of each metro market. It could also be helpful to look at pricing or promotions data to explain the popularity of a particular category in a given market.

When 2013 data is available in the 2014 Liquor Handbook (it has recently been released and was unavailable at the time this analysis was created) and more Shelftrac audits have been completed, it will also be helpful to revisit this analysis and perform a year-to-year comparison to see how consumers’ tastes change over time.


For More Information and Insights

For more about the Liquor Handbook, Shelftrac and other products offered by the Beverage Information & Insights Group, please visit www.bevresearch.wpengine.com and www.bevinfostore.com.

Our team offers a number of syndicated and custom causal data collection and reporting options. Syndicated services provide actionable information at a reasonable price, whereas custom audits are flexible and targeted to meet a client’s unique marketing needs. Whether you’re a manufacturer, retailer, distributor or industry expert, we have the right tool to assist with sales, marketing and distribution analysis efforts.

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