As Canada’s population ages, the habits and preferences of seniors are contributing to a shift in the beverage landscape and, as a result, the demand for beer is evolving. New research from Mintel reveals that Canadians are drinking less beer than they used to, with volume consumption per capita declining eight percent in the last five years from 83.4 litres in 2011 to 76.9 litres in 2016.

58% of women over age 65 say that they do not drink beer

The decline in per capita beer consumption is due, in part, to Canada’s demographic shifts, specifically, the growing senior population. While nearly three in four (74 percent) Canadians overall say that they typically drink beer, consumption declines significantly among older consumers: 35 percent of Canadians over age 55 say they do not drink beer. What’s more, older women show less interest as three in five (58 percent) women over age 65 say that they do not drink beer.

Despite decline, beer remains Canada’s most popular alcoholic beverage, with beer accounting for 80 percent of alcoholic beverage volume consumption in the country, according to Mintel Market Sizes.

“While beer remains far and away the most popular alcoholic beverage in Canada, the ground is shifting. 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. As such, 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,” said Joel Gregoire, Senior Food and Drink Analyst at Mintel.

Despite their waning interest in beer, women over-55 (26 percent) are more interested than men of the same age (10 percent) in exploring unique flavours and are more open to beer recommendations (28 percent of women 55+ vs 16 percent of men 55+). Though lower on the list of priorities when selecting a beer, lower alcohol content also proves slightly more important to women over-55 (12 percent) than Canadians overall (8 percent).

A bright spot for the category, craft beers are gaining traction with Canadian consumers. Over half (57 percent) of Canadians say they typically drink craft beers. What’s more, one quarter (27 percent) of beer drinkers agree that craft beer offers better quality than mainstream beers, with some 24 percent also agreeing that it is worth paying more for craft beer than mainstream beers.

Many Canadians also appear to make a clear connection between craft beers and buying local. One quarter (24 percent) of beer consumers agree that craft beers from small, independent brewers taste better than ones from large companies, and just under one fifth (17 percent) say they would like to see large companies release more craft-styled beer.

While craft is the darling of the beer industry, a number of Canadians also gravitate toward drinks that combine beer with other beverages. One third (32 percent) of Canadians claim to drink radlers, also known as a shandy, which combines beer with juice. According to Mintel Global New Product Database (GNPD), the top flavours in global beer launches with ‘radler’ in the description include lemon (26 percent), grapefruit (12 percent) and lemonade (11 percent). What’s more, nearly one third (31 percent) of consumers drink spirit-flavoured beers, while one quarter (24 percent) are interested in fruit-flavoured beer.

“Canada’s craft beer industry represents an evolution not only in the beer market, but also in the broader beverage industry. A boon to local economies, the craft beer renaissance provides consumers with choice and allows brewers to innovate and push the boundaries when it comes to taste. Within the Canadian market, larger manufacturers investing in craft-styled brands will need to be clever in developing strategies that address an apparent disconnect many consumers have when thinking about craft beer from larger brewers,” continued Gregoire.

53% of Canadians say they drink cider

In addition to the rise of craft beer, the popularity of cider is reflected in the sheer number of Canadians who drink it. More than half (53 percent) of Canadians say they drink cider, including seven in 10 (67 percent) 18-34-year-olds. Unlike beer – which men are more likely to drink (84 percent) than women (65 percent) – when it comes to cider, men (54 percent) and women (52 percent) are just as likely to say they drink cider. This may have to do with cider’s flavour as women are more likely to agree that they prefer the taste of cider over beer (27 percent of women vs 16 percent of men) and are more open to trying unique flavours (34 percent of women vs 20 percent of men).

And finally, Canada is abuzz with talk of hard soda, which blends the nostalgic flavours of soda with alcohol. Mintel research reveals that one quarter (25 percent) of Canadians are interested in drinking hard sodas. This format seems to be especially popular with younger consumers, with 42 percent of Canadians aged 20-24 saying they’re interested in hard sodas, including nearly half (45 percent) of women aged 20-24.

“The ingredients in cider, including apples, pears, peaches or berries, are relatable to consumers and this is likely one of the factors that has contributed to cider’s success. Recently, we’ve seen an explosion in the cider market due to consumers increasingly looking for new experiences, the mainstreaming of cider options with larger beer producers offering their own brands, the potential health associations tied to cider and the emergence of local craft producers,” concluded Gregoire.

Press copies of Mintel’s Beer, Craft Beer and Ciders Canada 2017 report and interviews with Joel Gregoire, Senior Food and Drink Analyst, are available on request from the press office.

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