People waving GB flags 800x800 - Shifting shapes?

How have our UK consumer segments evolved over the past three years?

This week we released our latest UK Portraits Report, a segmentation of the UK Wine market which groups UK regular wine drinkers into distinct categories based on their attitude towards, and relationship with, wine. This tried and tested segmentation, now in its 10th year, yields six discrete groups of drinkers which can be ranked in terms of their wine “involvement”, or, put another way, how much they know and care about the category.

The groups stand the test of time for their consistent effectiveness in capturing the different types of drinkers we see in the UK – from cost-cutting pensioners who solely drink wine in the home to educated party-going youngsters who splash out and are keen to discover more. Year on year, the same clusters emerge in our sea of data points to give us our groups: Adventurous Connoisseurs, Generation Treaters, Mainstream-At-Homers, Risk-Averse Youngsters, Senior Sippers, and Kitchen Casuals.

Yet despite the overall consistencies of the segmentation,  there are subtle changes and evolutions in the categories over the years that reflect how UK society is changing, and point to interesting and potentially lucrative future trends in the wine market. We can gain an insight into these by looking at our last report, published in 2013, as a benchmark for comparison.

So what’s new? Firstly (and in the interests of ending on a high), let’s start with the less involved groups.

Kitchen Casuals: These folks are generally middle-aged, less well-off, don’t have much of an interest in wine and basically never drink it in the off-trade. They account for a tiny proportion of the UK’s total spend on wine, yet account for around one seventh of UK regular wine drinkers.

Not much of interest here, you might be thinking. But the Kitchen Casuals, ever loyal to supermarkets, are starting to branch out and modernise in terms of channel usage. They are now twice as likely as in 2013 to shop on a supermarket website rather than in-store. The convenience sector, similarly, is more important for them, and, strikingly, there is a strong bias in this group towards shopping for wine at discount stores such as Aldi and Lidl.

Kitchen Casuals are, by their very definition, never going to be major players in the UK wine market, yet their forays into different channels are encouraging news for these retailers. The Kitchen Casuals’ development is also significant as it closely mirrors that of other groups, especially the Senior Sippers and Mainstream-at-Homers.

Senior Sippers are unadventurous older drinkers who account for nearly one in five regular UK wine drinkers, but for a significantly lower proportion of total spend on wine in the UK. They drink less frequently and their repertoire is restricted. But here, too, we see a slight shift towards the discounters to the detriment of supermarkets. The Senior Sippers are additionally starting to splash out a little more in the on-trade than in 2013, and in terms of their narrow repertoire, Prosecco is on the up.

Mainstream-at-Homers account for roughly a quarter of UK regular wine drinkers. This group is comprised of a “core” of 40- and 50-something wine drinkers who drink wine frequently, primarily at home, primarily bought as part of the weekly shop. It’s a similar story here: Prosecco is bubbling over, and they are increasingly turning to supermarket websites, or abandoning the supermarkets altogether in favour of discounters.

This supermarket-to-discounter exodus is also seen with the Risk-Averse Youngsters. These are younger drinkers who are new to the wine category and lack confidence in their choices. Besides turning to the likes of Aldi or Lidl, they are also beginning to drink more frequently, and generally spend a little more in the off-trade.

As the most involved group, the Adventurous Connoisseurs are confident and experienced wine drinkers. They are big drinkers both in the on- and off-trade, enjoy experimenting, drink from a large repertoire and are generally middle-aged, enjoying higher incomes. Here, too, discounters are on the rise, as is Prosecco. Adventurous Connoisseurs are also embracing their adventurousness like never before, consuming more niche varietals as well as more unusual countries and regions of origin.

The second most involved group, the Generation Treaters, are probably the most interesting when it comes to their evolution since 2013. Although they account for roughly only one in ten UK regular wine drinkers, they account for almost a third of the share of total spend on wine in the UK, a substantial increase on 2013.

These are younger, social drinkers who are new to the category and are cautious in their choices, yet who are up for a little experimentation. They are also ditching the supermarkets for discounters, are more likely to shop at independent retailers, and are turning overwhelmingly to online channels to buy their wine. If “watch this space” is a term that can apply to any of the groups, it’s these big spenders.

We can therefore see a pattern emerge across the majority of the groups: increasing numbers are turning away from the supermarkets towards discounters. Most are glugging Prosecco with increasing gusto. And many more are now making use of the internet to buy their wine.

The purpose of our segments may well be to pin data down and rigidify it into distinct categories. Yet, ironically, one of the most interesting and valuable fruits of this exercise is to observe how these categories drift. It is by noting these trends that we can map out a trajectory for the future purchasing behaviour of these groups of drinkers.

Find out more in our UK Portraits 2016 Report, available now for purchase from our Reports Shop.

Author: David Thompson