Burgers, hotdogs and beer remain classic American staples during Fourth of July celebrations, yet there is growing evidence that many US consumers are opting for plant-based food, low alcohol drinks and other alternatives.

According to the Financial Times, analysis of Nielsen sales data during Independence Day week in 2018 has found that, while sales of fresh beef rose by 2.1% since the same period in 2017, plant-based meat alternatives increased by 11%.

And as beer sales dipped 1.6% from 2017 levels, canned wine sales jumped 57% and sales of “hard seltzers” – sparkling water mixed with alcohol – soared by 150%. Sparkling water sales also increased 19% during the Fourth of July week last year.

While the total value of hard seltzer sales (c. $16m) was tiny in comparison with total beer sales (c. $800m), the Financial Times report suggested that the growth of food and drink alternatives meant consumer behaviour was shifting.

And it’s not just because of growing health concerns because, the report argued, social media has made image-conscious young people “more reluctant to get loaded on lager” at the same time as more consumers are giving thought to the impact of agriculture on the environment.

The rising popularity of alternative products is also disrupting traditional food and drink companies, with several well-known brands facing stiffer competition from smaller start-ups.

“Young people’s definition of what it means to be all-American is changing. They’re savvy enough to know that Budweiser is a huge corporate machine,” said Jan Livingston Mokhtari, co-founder of Gray Whale Gin, a distillery based in California.

Low alcohol and alcohol-free drinks are also on the rise and Yumi Clevenger-Lee, CMO at Nestlé Waters, noted that there is less social stigma associated with teetotalism than in the past. “I don’t think there are eyebrows raised anymore,” she said.

In addition, flavoured malt beverages have been selling well this year, according to Devon Broglie, a senior drinks buyer at Amazon-owned Whole Foods. “More than lower alcohol, it is also about clear, refreshing, flavour,” he said.

Sourced from Financial Times; additional content by WARC staff