Latest data from our COVID-19 tracking project is suggesting that the tendency of consumers to drink wine outside mealtimes, first observed at the height of lockdown, is gaining momentum
What does wine drinking look like in the coronavirus era? As we reflect on the extraordinary events of the past six months, we are starting to see some patterns of behaviour which might help our industry understand how their global consumer base has changed.
The first thing to note is that behaviour hasn’t really changed that much. As we have previously reported, consumers across major global markets have shown a remarkable tenacity to maintain pleasurable habits such as alcohol and socialising, even when lockdown restricts the normal course of these activities. Bars closed? Let’s have a drink and a Zoom call with friends. Long queues outside the supermarket? Order drinks online instead.
Later this month, Wine Intelligence will be releasing our update on consumer behaviour during the coronavirus pandemic. We will be comparing the recalled behaviour and attitudes to wine that we recorded at the height of the initial lockdown period in late March and early April of this year, with a new read of the markets in late July.
Our initial review of the data is showing some fascinating patterns, and not necessarily the ones we were expecting to see. One of these is the changing nature of the two key wine drinking occasions where the majority of wine is consumed: the end-of-day drink at home and the glass of wine with an informal meal at home. Clearly the two of these occasions can flow seamlessly together (they certainly do in my household) but these occasions can also include a late evening drink, or indeed a drink with lunch.
The chart below shows the recalled change in frequency of wine consumption at each of these two occasions across seven key consumption markets. The dotted line indicates the recalled change in consumption in March-April, and the solid line is the same response in July. Both are indexed scores based on a classic five-point scale answer (drinking much more at this occasion through to drinking much less), with the size of the up or down arrow proportionate to the net change recorded.
At the height of lockdown, in March and April, all of the markets bar one recorded an increase in the at-home-without-food drinking occasion; similarly, all of the markets bar one saw a fall in recalled wine consumption with a meal. Our interpretation at the time was that, as most people were home during the day, the traditional routine of a drink only with dinner was probably being disrupted – and watching the news at the time may have been an incentive for more people reach for a glass. It also explained why overall wine sales volumes were mostly stable in these markets – and in some cases rose slightly.
Fast-forward to July, and we see an intriguing picture emerge. The decline in wine with food has reversed or at least moderated in most markets (with China showing the biggest change). At the same time, at-home drinking without food has actually increased in frequency. There might be some seasonal effect in this change, with northern hemisphere summer normally coinciding with more outdoor, non-food occasions, but the trend also seems present in mid-winter Australia.
This data is showing the growing opportunity for wine as a drink of choice more frequently at non-food occasions, and suggests that wine might increasingly be taking market share from other categories.