Covid border restrictions in Norway triggered a surge in domestic wine sales as drinkers were unable to access the border shops in neighbouring Sweden or travel retail outlets and had to source their wine domestically. Monopoly sales of still wine increased by more than 40% between 2020 and 2021. Already in 2022, as footfall to the border increases, sales in Vinmonopolet are correcting themselves, but the still wine category will likely hold onto some volume. 

In the previous five years before the pandemic, domestic sales of still wine had been down by nearly 9% but the improved outlook will not stem from any great shift in the dynamics underpinning the category, but more from government intervention. The scale of the jump in sales during the crisis exposed just how big the border trade was and exposing its cost in lost tax revenues. Measures have been taken to dilute the incentives for border shopping; duty on beer and wine was cut in 2021 and most recently the government reduced the maximum sale of wine bottles that travellers can return with from six to four in travel retail.

New Wine Intelligence findings indicate that stakeholders still need to address a number of issues for the longer-term prosperity of still wine in Norway. The most important of these is that the regular and weekly wine drinking population has slumped by more than a third since 2017. The wine drinking population that remains is ageing. Boomers now make up 45% of regular wine drinkers in the market, up from 38% in 2017.

The silver lining is that although wine drinkers are ageing, the proportion of higher income groups buying wine is also on the up, something that will be facilitating the process of premiumisation –  Norwegian wine drinkers are more frequently purchasing wine at premium price points in the off-trade. The decline in the regular wine consumer numbers is being driven by younger LDA, lower income Norwegians dropping out of the category. Winning back younger LDA drinkers will likely be an enduring aspiration for Norwegian wine suppliers.

Still wine players can look to sparkling wine for inspiration to improve recruitment. Sparkling wine sales are thriving in Norway, with sales expected to be up by nearly a fifth on pre-Covid levels by 2026. Sparkling wine growth has been achieved by broadening the occasions in which it can be consumed to more numerous and lower key events. The top motivations and wine buying cues for still wine still relate to food pairing and the core mealtime occasion.

Results show that Millennials in particular, are indeed open to trying new and different styles of wine. Presenting Millennials and LDA generation X with wines that can compete with other alcohol alternatives away from the dinner table will enhance recruitment. To an extent, the process is already underway and in the south of Norway there is a growing ‘white and light’ trend that is slowly diffusing into the north and rural regions. There is also a rising trend for rosé along with lighter red wines from France and the US gaining momentum. These wines are all more flexible and can be enjoyed in a more diverse range of settings.

Operating in a monopoly market with strict regulations enforced on advertising alcoholic products makes shaping trends more difficult and it will be the more liberal on-trade that will play an important role re-positioning still wine as a drink for all occasions.

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