Plant-based burgers and ready-to-drink cocktails may be crashing the pool party.

By Mike Pomranz
Updated May 23, 2019
Credit: bhofack2/Getty Images

Nothing says summer like a burger on the grill and a cold beer in the cooler. Right? Well, according to the data experts over at Nielsen, those cookout staples may be losing favor to somewhat similar but distinctly different options. Strictly looking at sales growth, for 2019, more of the burgers you see may be plant-based and the cooler might contain more canned cocktails and hard seltzer.

In the lead up to Memorial Day, Nielsen put together a quick look at “a range of emerging options” that are seeing strong growth this year against the tried-and-true summer choices. So though grilling might not be going anywhere, what’s on the grill is shifting: Nielsen says that though overall sales of traditional meat have grown 2.6 percent since last year, including 1.9 percent growth for frankfurters, plant-based meat alternatives have seen sales jump 13.5 percent over the same period. Granted, that still means you’ll see plenty of beef burgers in the backyard, but plant-based continues to be trending.

Credit: Nielsen

Along those lines, beer alternatives still only make up a tiny percentage of alcoholic beverages sales, but while Nielsen says beer sales have basically remained steady, some other potential cold summer sippers have seen massive sales increases since 2018. Sales of malt-based cocktails are up 574 percent. Hard kombucha sales are up over 247 percent. Hard seltzer has seen a 193 percent sales jump. Canned wine sales are up 77 percent. And ready-to-drink wine-based and spirit-based cocktails have both seen their sales rise by over 40 percent.

Credit: Nielsen
Credit: Nielsen

Again, keep in mind, these numbers are all relative: It’s easy for malt-based cocktails to see significant sales growth because the malt-based cocktails section is tiny compared to the beer aisle. (Specifically, Nielsen pegs annual malt-based cocktail sales at $4.7 million; last year, beer sold over $35 billion at retail alone, according to Brewbound.) Still, if you want to look hip, you might want to bring canned cocktails or hard seltzer to the pool party this year. I’m not guaranteeing anyone else will drink them, but apparently you’ll look totally on-trend drinking hard kombucha, chowing down on a plant-based burger, listening to the version of “Old Town Road” featuring Billy Ray Cyrus.