Granted the topic isn't specifically business related (although I could argue that, since entrepreneurship is a lifestyle, anything lifestyle-related is relevant), but the findings of this study are too amazing not to share. I promise you'll say, "Wait … what?!"

First there was a survey on alcohol consumption conducted by the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism. Sorry, NIH, but that was pretty dull reading.

Then Philip Cook performed a little data analysis, breaking alcohol consumption per week into deciles. He found:

  • The bottom three deciles, or 30 percent of Americans, say they don't drink at all. That figure might be a little high since some people probably say they don't drink but occasionally do … but let's go with it.
  • The fourth decile consumes .02 drinks per week. Since assumedly no one is squeezing a couple drops from an eyedropper, that works out to about one drink a year. (Birthday, maybe?)
  • The fifth decile consumes .14 drinks per week. That's about seven drinks a year. Holidays, possibly, or that office party you were dragged to and tried to make the best of. (Or am I the only one who has done that?)
  • The sixth decile consumes .63 drinks per week. That's a little over half a drink, or 32 drinks a year.

So, 60 percent of Americans aged 18 and over consumer half a drink or less a week. Surprising? (It was to me--based on the square footage of the beer and wine section at the grocery store I assumed the number would be a little higher.)

Moving on:

  • The seventh decile consumes 2.17 drinks per week. And right about now the alcoholic beverage industry thinks, "Are we really getting a return on all our advertising spending?"
  • The eighth decile consumes 6.25 drinks per week. Finally we're close to a drink a day or a number of drinks on Friday night.) People who have a glass of wine a beer with TV are in the top 30% of adults in terms of alcohol consumption. While one drink a day isn't much--especially since some health experts say a glass of red wine a day can reduce the risk of heart disease--that still means this decile drinks more than 70% of Americans.
  • The ninth decile consumes 15.28 drinks per week. Two drinks a day, top 20% in terms of alcohol consumption.

But let's say you're a high achiever and always want to be at the top of any list. Say your goal is to reach the tenth decile and land in the top 10% of American drinkers.

Here's what you need to do:

  • The tenth decile consumes 73.85 drinks per week. That's right, 73 drinks a week. Basically 10 drinks a day. Forget a glass or two of wine with dinner--you need to drink roughly two bottles of wine with dinner. Forget a couple beers--you need to pound down close to a 12-pack of beer every day. (Tell me your bladder and your wallet don't hurt just thinking about it.)

Here's what all this means:

  • The top 10% of drinkers account for more than half of all alcohol consumed in the U.S.
  • The median consumption is 3 drinks per week among those who do drink (tossing out the 30% who don't drink at all.)
  • According to Cook, "... the heaviest drinkers are of greatly disproportionate importance to the sales and profitability of the alcoholic beverage industry. If the top decile could be induced to curb their consumption to that of the next lower group (the ninth decile) then total ethanol sales would fall by 60%."

Maybe you're not surprised. After all, everyone knows power users are critical; the top 20 to 30% of users tend to generate 70 to 80% of sales for the average product or services. So maybe it comes as no shock to you that "power drinkers" would make up such a huge proportion of alcohol sales.

But still. One out of ten adults consume more than 10 drinks a day?

Told you I'd get a, "Wait... what?!" out of you.

(For more info--and a handy chart--check out Christopher Ingraham's article in The Washington Post.)

Published on: Oct 7, 2014
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