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'More Zoom Parties, More Alcohol Consumption': Hard Seltzer, Tequila Sales Boom During COVID-19 Lockdown

LOS ANGELES (CBSLA) - With beer, wine and even cocktails now an option for take-out orders, alcohol sales are booming across California and the U.S. even as experts warn of increased potential for substance abuse.

Total alcohol sales were up 22% for the week ending March 28 compared to the same period a year ago, according to Nielsen data.

Beers, flavored malt beverage, and cider sales were up 17%, while spirits and wine sales were each up 27%, the study reported.

And while an increase in alcohol consumption was somewhat expected by industry insiders due to rise of delivery services during the COVID-19 lockdown, what may surprise some is the skyrocketing popularity of hard seltzers, which saw sales soar 327% compared to pre-COVID periods.

Popular hard seltzers like White Claw and Truly have seen competition from blue-collar brands like Natural Light and Pabst Blue Ribbon.

Cartons of White Claw, a flavored alcoholic fizz in a can are on display at the Round The Clock Deli September 11, 2019 in New York City. - Health-conscious American millennials have found their drink of choice: alcoholic carbonated water that is lower in calories and carbs than beer and wine. A hard seltzer craze is sweeping the United States as Generation Y and Generation Z pursue healthier lifestyles, influenced by viral trends on Instagram and YouTube. (Photo by TIMOTHY A. CLARY / AFP) (Photo credit should read TIMOTHY A. CLARY/AFP via Getty Images)

After hard seltzers, premade cocktails and other ready-to-drink spirits, tequila, gin, and whiskey all saw growth as high as 45%, Nielsen said.

Only one segment - scotch - did not grow versus last year.

Danelle Kosmal, Vice President of Beverage Alcohol at Nielsen, says when customers are buying booze, they're going big.

"Large pack sizes (24+ packs) continue to outpace growth rates of smaller packs, indicating that consumers are still stocking up with large packs on their shopping trips," Kosmal said.

But with big booze sales comes an increased risk of binge drinking and other health concerns, according to Daryl Davies, professor of clinical pharmacy and director of the Alcohol and Brain Research Laboratory at USC School of Pharmacy.

"As social distancing and self-isolation turns from weeks to months, we'll see more online partying, more Zoom parties and more alcohol consumption, so we're going to hear about more problems related to alcohol abuse," Davies said.

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