What’s happening to Australia’s sparkling wine love affair?
The sparkling wine market in Australia may seem bright. It’s the 9th largest sparkling wine market globally (in terms of volume), an impressive statistic when taking into account the relatively small Australian population. About half of all alcohol drinkers in Australia drink sparkling wine, making Australia a market of around 8.3 million sparkling wine drinkers, of which 1 in 5 are enjoying fizz on a weekly basis.
But our recently published tracking study reveals this market may be losing its sparkle. When we examine year-on-year behaviour within the sparkling wine category, most of the measures remain quite stable: the category is attracting similar numbers of drinkers as a year ago, they are enjoying fizz at a similar frequency and seem to be sticking to similar sparkling brands.
We may have expected to see growth in domestic sparkling this year as the Australian dollar continued to weaken, but this isn’t happening yet. Champagne and, to a lesser degree, Italian sparkling wines are still growing steadily, but domestic sparkling wines volumes have now fallen back to below levels reported in 2011 (IWSR 2014).
When exploring consumer perceptions of different alcoholic beverages, sparkling wine tends to be seen as a drink that is good for socialising, a taste people like and a drink of high quality. However, compared with other drinks, these associations aren’t particularly compelling. Craft beer and cider are seen as more appropriate when socialising, even amongst sparkling wine drinkers.
So what does the future hold for sparkling wine in Australia? As the dollar continues to weaken, will the competition from imported wine ease to make way for domestic sparkling growth or will there be more foreign fizz contenders with lower-priced offerings? Or maybe the answer is in innovation: fresh approaches to packaging and marketing could perhaps to broaden consumption occasions and the consumer base, to reignite growth in this category. Indeed, take a look at the Top 100 Sparkling Products for 2013 on DanMurphys.com.au (which translates as the product with the most consumer reviews): the most highly rates is Fresita – a strawberry flavoured sparkling wine from Chile, selling at $15 a bottle, lower in alcohol at just 8% ABV and also available in 200ml bottles.