NielsenIQ’s client team leader Rob Hallworth looks at the imapct of the pandemic on new legal age drinkers. 

We talk a lot about how consumer habits have changed during the Covid-19 pandemic. Will consumers go back to “normal” and what will that look like?

Of course, the importance of understanding changing consumer dynamics is clear, but remember some habits are also being formed during these unprecedented times. Using some simple maths, we can estimate that well over a million people have turned 18 in the UK since March 2020. When it comes to drinking alcohol, those consumers who enter the category are not changing habits, they are forming them.

Anyone who has consumed alcohol will likely have a story to tell of how they first engaged with the category; parties, buying their first round in a pub etc… all personal to them. Contrast that with those who have reached legal drinking age in the past year and a half and it’s a very different experience. Lockdowns, bubbles and curfews have all contributed to different behaviours.

So, what impact might this have for the alcohol sector?


Most people are aware of the higher price point in the on-trade, however with hospitality closed at times over the past 18 months, anyone starting their alcohol journey at home has a benchmark set on price that makes this gap appear even wider when drinking out of home. Even those more premium offerings from supermarkets can look appealing compared to their out-of[1]home equivalent. This offers manufacturers and retailers an opportunity for trading up for some of those historically out-of-home occasions.


Along with the price benefits, drinking at home allows consumers to experiment with different drinks and categories, all of which will influence their choices when they become more engaged in out-of-home drinking. For example, we have seen the rise of spirits bought for making cocktails at home which, in turn, has given the spirits industry a boost as cocktails became the drink of choice when pubs and bars reopened.


Of course, all being well, we will see a thriving hospitality sector in the near future, which is key for the industry as well as consumer wellbeing. However, when restrictions were in place, many occasions evolved or even began at home. Habits can be hard to break, and manufacturers must understand which of these are likely to remain. Which brings me full circle to my first point: what consumer habits have changed and what will stick?

Any new generation will have their own differences, and while none of us would choose to go through Covid and restricted living again, it has provided a clear opportunity for the category to build strong ties to brand consumption in the home.