The world’s largest wine market has not been put off its game by the coronavirus or the lockdown – but how will wine fare in the coming economic storm?
Good news has been in short supply in the US wine category recently, with small producers struggling to make ends meet along large swathes of the hospitality industry. The only positive sign has been retail sales, which jumped in March to unprecedented levels as consumers filled their fridges and pantries.
The nagging question arising from this surge in retail sales was whether all the stock being purchased would actually be consumed – and whether the wine shopper would be back for more in April. The evidence from our first US Covid-19 Impact Report is that the stock in the pantry/fridge has in fact been consumed, and that shoppers are coming back for more. Leading the charge are the more highly involved wine drinkers, who are buying more of what they like, and the young, who are replacing the by-the-glass pour in their favorite bar with some new discoveries from the online delivery service and the local liquor store.
The new Wine Intelligence US COVID-19 Impact Report polled a nationally representative sample of 2,000 monthly US wine drinkers during March and April to understand how their wine drinking behavior was changing as a result of the restrictions due to the coronavirus. The findings paint a picture of a nation finding new occasions for wine drinking – at lunchtime, or catching up with friends online, or replacing the trip to the restaurant with a more indulgent evening meal.
The growing volume of wine purchased was tempered by a slight decline in average price per bottle paid overall, according to the research. However, within this average were significant variations by consumer type. More involved and committed wine drinkers, who mainly spend between $15 and $20 per bottle normally, tended to spend a bit more than usual, while less frequent wine drinkers tended to spend a bit less.
There was a significant growth in online shopping across all age groups, with the most likely users of online channels being younger, urban, affluent consumers. This same demographic, who in normal times are more likely to drink wine in social settings such as bars and restaurants, also tended to spend more on their take-home purchases.
US wine drinkers on the whole expressed caution about going out to bars and restaurants immediately after lockdown restrictions were ended – around 40% said they would be less likely to visit a restaurant, while 27% said they would be more likely. The US wine drinker is also quite cautious about their household finances and the idea of getting on a plane. Thankfully for the wine category, their intentions seem to be replacing big treats like vacations and big events with small treats like a nicer bottle of wine.