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    Ciders, Vodkas Top Growth Categories in International Beverage Sales: Nielsen

    Also, here in the states, the latest Gallup poll results find beer's lead over wine, spirits is back to double digits.

    In international markets, alcoholic ciders and vodkas showed growth of 14 percent and 11 percent, respectively, in 2007, making them the highest-growth alcoholic beverage categories around the world, according to results of a first-ever study of retail and on-premise sales trends of alcoholic beverage products by The Nielsen Company.

    Among the findings of the report -- "What's Hot around the Globe -- Insights on Alcoholic Beverage Categories" -- global consumption of alcoholic beverage categories measured in the report grew by 6 percent from 2006 to 2007, consistent with overall growth in food and beverage categories, as reported in previous Nielsen studies for the same time period. Growth rates varied significantly between regions and within categories.

    As the study measures growth in value sales, inflation can affect the trend. However, in many markets where categories were on the rise, consumers' trading up to more premium brands had an impact as well.

    "We are seeing a trend in certain markets, such as Russia and Poland, toward higher consumption of premium brands as consumers in those countries increase their spending power," said Richard Hurst, Nielsen's s.v.p. of beverage alcohol "While some of the growth in the alcoholic beverage categories can certainly be attributed to price inflation, many emerging regions are becoming increasingly attractive to marketers of products in these categories, due to their strong year-on-year performance."

    The top-growth categories, based primarily on retail sales in food outlets, included:

    Alcoholic cider, which, with a 14 percent overall increase, was the fastest-growing category tracked. Based on the markets measured, Great Britain was the primary driver, with a 26 percent growth rate in what is a billion-dollar category for that market. The Baltic markets of Lithuania (44 percent) and Latvia (42 percent), although significantly lower in volume sales than Great Britain, also showed dramatic year-over-year growth.

    Vodka, with an overall growth rate of 11 percent, was fueled by many markets. Russia, the largest market in sales for this category, had a 7 percent year-over-year increase, while Poland, the second-largest market, had a growth rate of 17 percent. In Western Europe, Great Britain and France were the primary drivers, with 11 percent and 13 percent increases, respectively. In this region, vodka appears to be taking share from other spirits, including scotch and rum.

    Pre-mixed alcoholic beverages, which overall had a category growth rate of 7 percent, but varying performance in individual markets, with many showing losses over the previous year. The leading contributor to growth was Australia, with a 10 percent increase in a $2 billion dollar market, followed by Japan, with a 28 percent increase in a $300 million market. Several countries exhibited negative trends, most notably a 1 percent decrease in the United States, which is the second-largest market in volume sales after Australia. Other markets with decreased sales were Great Britain (-6 percent), France (-7 percent), and Ireland (-8 percent).

    Meanwhile, results of a new Gallup poll find beer's lead over wine and spirits in the states has returned to double-digits for the first time since 2002, particularly among adults between the ages of 30 and 49 who tried wine for a few years, and then shifted back to beer.

    The annual Consumption Habits poll, released Friday through Gallup's Web site, shows that in combined data from Gallup's 2004 and 2005 Consumption surveys, drinkers between the ages of 30 and 49 were about as likely to prefer wine as beer. Now drinkers in this age bracket have shifted back to beer, with an average of 47 percent in the combined 2007-2008 data saying they most often drink beer. Drinking preferences among adults ages 21 to 29 have remained stable in recent years, with the majority showing a wide preference for beer.

    "This poll shows what we've always known -- that trends will come and go, but beer is here to stay," said Bob Lachky, e.v.p. of global industry and creative development for Anheuser-Busch, Inc. and leader of "Here's To Beer," a two-year-old campaign that toasts Americans' appreciation for beer. "More Americans are learning -- or relearning -- how to appreciate the wide variety of beer styles available, and how easy it is to pair beer with all types of food, which is also attracting new adult consumers to the beer category."

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