Wine drinkers in Sweden, Netherlands and Germany have taken the virus pandemic in their stride, suggesting the disruption to the wine market will be minimised
When the Covid-19 virus swept the planet early in 2020, most countries locked their citizens down in their homes. Sweden went a different way. Instead of draconian restrictions, it adopted more of a soft-touch approach, discouraging large gatherings but allowing most everyday social activities to continue and bars and restaurants to remain open, though with social distancing restrictions in place.
Sweden’s wine consumers were therefore faced with a less drastic change to their lifestyles and drinking habits compared with consumers in other countries. The result is, not surprisingly, that their behaviours have changed less dramatically as a result. Wine drinking has continued through the ‘lockdown-life’, and there are only marginal changes to quantity purchased and spend. New occasions (particularly wine with lunch or special evening meals) appear to have replaced, almost one-for-one, the occasions where Swedes were going out to socialise in a bar or restaurant.
To the south, Germany’s government adopted a much more decisive and aggressive attitude to control the virus, with the result that the country suffered a lot lower levels of disease in the population, and fewer deaths, than in other countries. As with the government, Germany’s regular wine drinkers appear to have dealt with the pandemic in a clear-headed and sensible way. The wine market in Germany has been experiencing something of a quality and value renaissance in recent years, with consumers breaking out of the age-old habits of spending very little on wine. In recent years, spending on wine for home consumption has increased (from a very low base) and on-trade spending has also grown. Reasons for this have included: better incomes, more interesting wines to choose from, and a burgeoning high quality domestic wine business, which is successfully cultivating direct relationships with consumers through the cellar door and online retail channels.
As with their near neighbours in Germany, regular wine drinkers in The Netherlands appear to have taken the coronavirus pandemic and associated restrictions in their stride. Traditionally a low-price market like Germany, Dutch wine drinkers have started to spend more on wine in recent years (again, similar to Germany), with some consumers starting to discover the delights of wine costing over €10. The reasons for this change are also similar to the German neighbours: better incomes, more interesting wines to choose from and the growth of the online channel.
The arrival of coronavirus earlier this year could have undermined these trends. The evidence of our two new Covid-19 Impact Reports on these markets, published today, suggests this has not happened – at least not yet. German and Dutch regular wine drinkers have maintained their overall wine consumption, in part by swapping some of the lost on-trade and social occasions by more in-home drinking with meals and online catch-ups with friends. Both nationalities are also maintaining their previous patterns of spending on wine to drink at home – unlike other markets, where spend has fallen away.
Another common thread seems to be that wine drinkers in all three markets seem broadly calm and optimistic about resuming their previous social lifestyles. When it comes to future plans, the main message from Sweden’s wine consumers is one of continuity. Few major changes in lifestyle are anticipated – the exception being a small minority, around 14% of the population, who say they are less likely to go out after the virus has gone. Fortunately for the wine category, these were not big wine drinkers to begin with.
There is also a balance to future priorities. Saving money is slightly more important than it used to be, but not the urgent priority seen in other markets. Instead, Swedes appear to be looking forward to living well, going on holiday and getting back into their full social lives. The only change might be this year more of the Swedish wine consuming population will be holidaying domestically rather than abroad.
Looking ahead, German and Dutch wine drinkers seem broadly calm and optimistic about resuming their previous social lifestyles, though many Germans – as with their Swedish counterparts – appear to acknowledge that this year’s summer holiday may be a domestic one rather than the Mediterranean or beyond. There also remains a positive feeling about the wine category, translating into an intention among around 1 in 6 regular wine drinkers to treat themselves to a better wine when they get through the crisis – something the wine trade in both markets will welcome.