Following a long-term decline, wine consumption volume in the UK was boosted by the pandemic, with wine increasing enjoyed at at-home, particularly during non-food occasions. Although wine will adjust downwards in the short term, the longer-term prospects for wine are more positive than they were before the pandemic. Given that UK consumers are now enjoying wine more frequently pre-dinner, there is an increasing opportunity for more refreshing, lighter or lower alcohol wine styles with UK wine drinkers.
A shrinking wine drinker population; younger LDA wine drinkers driving value
The number of regular wine drinkers in the UK is declining, falling by 4 million in the past five years to 26 million regular wine drinkers. 49% of adults are now regular wine drinkers, compared with 59% of adults being wine drinkers in 2015. Within the UK’s regular wine drinking population, the proportion of mature drinkers (aged 65+) has risen from 22% of all UK regular wine drinkers in 2015 to 27%. This increase in the proportion of older drinkers is contrasted by fewer younger LDA drinkers now entering the wine category. Back in 2010, near half (49%) of those who were aged between 18 and 34 years were regular wine drinkers. Today, that proportion has halved, with only 26% of todays 18-34 year olds being regular wine drinkers.
“Like many developed countries, the UK has an ageing population, so, it is not surprising to see a growing older wine drinking population,” says Lulie Halstead, CEO Wine Intelligence. Two years ago, Boomers and Seniors (aged mid 50s+) and Millennials (aged mid 20s to late 30s) were consuming wine at a fairly similar frequency, with older drinkers slightly ahead. Our latest data from July 2021 shows that proportionately, Boomers and Seniors have increased their frequency of wine consumption more than any other age group.”
An overall increase in alcohol moderation and abstinence, particularly among younger legal drinking age (LDA) adults, is a strong factor behind the decline in the wine drinking population. Additionally, younger LDA drinkers have been significantly more impacted by Covid-19 restrictions. This group typically consumes wine in social settings, at formal occasions and in larger groups, often in the on-trade. “While Millennials and legal drinking age Gen-Z drinkers are often thought of as driving trends, older drinkers are a key demographic to consider within any wine marketing strategy, particularly as younger LDA wine drinkers are dialling back on alcohol consumption,” says Halstead.
However, younger LDA drinkers are driving value. Those 18-34 year old drinkers who have remained connected with the wine category over the past 2 years are among the highest UK spenders per bottle on wine. “Younger wine drinkers of legal drinking age in the UK are also more motivated by how wine makes them feel and look to others. If they perceive a wine brand to be fashionable, individual, unique or sophisticated, this help drives an increase in terms of how much they will spend on wine” comments Halstead. “As a result, if wine brands want to connect with younger LDA consumers, they should consider these factors in their communication strategies.”
However, the latest Wine Intelligence data on wine usage indicates that younger LDA drinkers boosted their monthly wine consumption during the UK summer months, as easing lockdown restrictions yielded more opportunities to socialise and re-connect with friends.
E-commerce momentum continues
E-commerce saw a huge boost during 2020, with many regular UK wine drinkers preferring to shop online including via supermarket websites. Looking ahead, existing online wine shoppers are anticipating buying more wine online in the future than they did pre-pandemic. However, purchasing wine in-store has persisted as the most popular shopping channel, with 80% of regular wine drinkers in the UK buying wine from supermarkets and over 30% now buying wine from discount stores.
“Within bricks-and-mortar sores, in-store shelf signage and displays remain the most important drivers in positively influencing consumers’ wine choices” says Halstead.
Brands remain resilient, knowledge levels up
While the Covid restrictions have caused wine brands in some markets to start fading from the minds of consumers, the same is not true in the UK. Wine brand awareness levels among wine drinkers in the UK have in fact risen over the past 2 years. A typical UK monthly wine drinker can recognise around 20 wine brands, up from 16 in 2019. However, it’s important to note that grape variety and country of origin remain the leading choice cues for UK wine drinkers. This boost in brand visibility is part of the other peculiarity in the UK market – that knowledge levels among wine drinkers are increasing, which runs counter to trends seen elsewhere in the world. “The power of brands in the UK is in part driven by a more consistent range of brands being available,” says Halstead. “It also reflects the changing population, with the profile of regular wine drinkers in the UK skewing increasingly towards older, more experienced drinkers who shop by brand and use mainstream retail or supermarket websites,” Halstead adds.
While the market trend towards increased brand awareness continues, UK wine drinkers are narrowing the number of brands they purchase, favouring the tried, tested and familiar. This offers good opportunities for wine brands once consumers are aware of them, but carries an obvious and challenging pre-requisite: building awareness of wine brands on a crowded supermarket shelf or website assortment.
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