sweden 1 - Swedes get virtuous

Sweden as a nation is on a health kick, drinking less and exercising more. Alcohol volumes are declining, including wine, but Swedes are now thinking more about their tipple – and willing to spend more.

In the idealised outsiders’ perception of Sweden, beautiful, healthy people exist happily in harmony with nature and society, among the picturesque woods and islands. According to Wine Intelligence’s recent Sweden Landscapes 2018 report, such values and behaviours are not a million miles away from the country’s relationship with the wine category.

Sweden was once renowned as a committed spirits drinking country, with the long winters leading some Swedes to tip into alcohol dependencies. The 21st century version of Sweden is moving in a very different direction.  It is becoming increasingly more socially acceptable to pass on an alcoholic beverage, with younger Swedes in particular preferring to hit the gym or the bicycle rather than the bar or drinks cabinet.

In this new era, spirits sales have been hit the hardest; however still wine has also been in steady decline over the past few years. The silver lining to this new behaviour is that by and large Swedes are willing to spend a bit more when they do decide to crack open a bottle.

Recent tax increases have made the added spend unavoidable, but our study shows that there is a growing interest in wine in Sweden and a desire to find quality over quantity. Interest in the category is growing and with a prosperous economy now, many wine drinkers have the money to spend on their hobby. Our results show that food-matching is becoming an increasingly important factor, and the chance to share a nice bottle that pairs well with a meal is an increasingly appealing pastime. In fact, 74% of regular Swedish wine drinkers consider matching their wine and food to be the most important factor when selecting wine, which is a significant increase on the past year.

Wine sales are controlled by the monopoly, Systembolaget, but fewer people are buying wine from there. In the past year more are popping overseas or buying on a ferry, or cruise, to find better value for money or new wines that aren’t available under the monopoly. Experts also report that consumers are becoming more open to alcohol-free wines, which can also be bought in stores outside the Systembolaget.

In contrast, sparkling wine continues to see an increase in volume. As is the case in so many markets, Prosecco is the driver for this and is riding high on a fashionable wave. The same is true of craft beer, and industry experts suspect this is also partly to account for the slight dip in still wine volumes. The interest in microbreweries and different beer types and flavour profiles is stepping on the toes of the wine category.

Walking side-by-side with the health trend is a propensity for alternative wines. There has been a huge uptake on organic products, including wine; the nation’s favourite Prosecco happens to be organic. There is also a growing interest in vegan wines, and not just from self-confessed vegans. Across our alternative wine measures, we are seeing an increased desire for wines that are perceived to be healthier.

Nobody knows how long the craft beer bubble will last, but we can be confident the health trend is here to stay. It may look like a direct threat to the wine industry, that is not necessarily the case. Wine has every chance of being part of Sweden’s healthier future.

Author: Luke Catterson

Email: Luke@wineintelligence.com