Mintel: Older Canadians are drinking less beer, turning to cider and fruitier flavors

Beer remains Canada's most consumed alcoholic beverage, but consumption has waned, especially among women over 55, Mintel found. ©iStock/JackF

As Canadians age, they are drinking less beer with baby boomer women leading the decline in consumption. But cider and local craft beer can help soften some of the downturn, a recent Mintel report found.

“While beer remains far and away the most popular alcoholic beverage in Canada (accounting for 80% of alcoholic beverage consumption), the ground is shifting,” Joel Gregoire, senior food and drink analyst at Mintel, said.

“Canada’s population is aging and one of the key distinctions is that the drop off in beer consumption among seniors primarily occurs among women.”

The declining pace of beer consumption has slowed down over the past two years and Canadians reported drinking an average of six and a half fewer liters in 2016 compared to five years ago; and 35% of Canadians over the age of 55 say they do not drink beer at all, according to Mintel.

The drop-off in beer consumption does not appear to be based on any one type of beer with declines evident across lager, ales, malts, and stouts, Mintel noted. 

Women more interested in new flavors than men

Consumer feedback revealed that women are less likely to drink beer than men – 58% of women over the age of 65 said they did not drink beer in 2016.

However, there is still an opportunity to re-engage older female consumers through lighter alcoholic beverages such as cider and fruit-flavored beer, as 26% of women said they would be open to exploring more unique flavors compared to just 10% of men.

Women are more likely to agree that they “often find beer’s flavor to be too bitter for (them)” (21% vs 12% of men) and they are also more likely to agree that they “prefer the taste of cider over beer” (27% vs 16%), Mintel said.

“Developing tactics that support a strategy of providing more palatable beer options, such as socialization with hints at flavour exploration, for women in this advanced age range can support a larger goal of stemming potential declines,” Gregoire said.

Canadian embrace craft beer and cider

Despite declines in overall beer consumption, craft beer and cider volumes have grown – 57% of Canadians said they typically drink craft beers and 53% of Canadians said they drink cider.

Some of the reasons Mintel cited for this continued interest in craft beer are that it is perceived as higher-quality compared to mainstream beer, and consumers are willing to pay more for such products.

Cider has also proved to be a growth opportunity in Canada as consumers are more likely to associate cider with being “flavorful, refreshing and natural,” providing some guidance in how to effectively position cider to Canadians.

Wine gains popularity with ageing Canadians

While the share of Canadians who drink beer by age drops, the same declines are not apparent when examining consumer feedback related to wine, according to Mintel’s Wine – Canada, October 2016 report.

It’s also notable that wine’s share of total market volume has also increased by two percentage points from 14% to 16% between 2011 and 2016.

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