US regular wine drinkers are increasing their consumption of wines during the lockdown, while planning for a post-lockdown world which features fewer vacations, less business travel and less overall spending
One of the keys to the world wine industry’s health over the next 12-18 months will be how the United States – the world’s largest and most valuable market for wine – exits and recovers from the Covid-19 pandemic.
So far, the signs are not good. A confused and somewhat contradictory response from the Federal government to the pandemic has led to the world’s highest number of virus-related deaths, put over 20 million people out of work so far, with analysts expecting this number to hit at least 25 million before the end of April. Recent Federal legislation (The CARES Act) in response to the crisis has boosted unemployment benefit levels temporarily, but this increase currently expires in July, and the unemployment insurance payments themselves (also extended by the CARES Act) mostly end in December 2020.
The net of this is that sentiment in the US is reflecting some fundamental and serious financial uncertainties about the future. Such concerns appear to be entering the minds of American regular wine drinkers, according to our latest Covid-19 consumer research data which will be published over the next few weeks.
First, the good news: US regular wine drinkers are becoming more frequent drinkers of wine in general during the shelter-in-place orders and other restrictions on movement in effect in most US states. Most of this change appears to be around non-food occasions, either during the day or before the evening meal. A small minority – around 6% of regular wine drinkers – say they have stopped drinking wine altogether, but this change is more than balanced by an increased proportion of people drinking wine every day.
Some of this boost in drinking is coming from new ‘lockdown occasions’ – for instance, enjoying wine with lunch at home, or with friends over a Zoom or Houseparty call. Another boost is from families and partners hosting ‘treat’ dinners for one another, replacing the restaurant occasion, according to our data.
Perhaps not surprisingly, those consumers most inclined to behave this way are those who already consider wine to be fairly important in their lives to begin with. For those familiar with our US Portrait segments, the groups showing biggest increases in wine consumption are Engaged Explorers (high income, high spending, younger drinkers) and Premium Brand Suburbans (more mid aged, frequent drinkers often with school aged children).
As has been well documented from other research, there has been a big increase in online wine shopping in recent weeks. What has been less obvious from the data published so far and is evidenced in this new data is that mainstream supermarkets (in states where wine can be sold there) are also picking up a lot of business, particularly from younger consumers who would normally buy wine more frequently in an on-premise environment and don’t tend to shop for wine for home that often.
Looking to the future, US wine drinkers are exhibiting a lot of caution, in common with other markets – the kind of caution that worries economists forecasting a return of consumer confidence in a so-called V-shaped recovery later this year. Once lockdown is over, the data is suggesting there will be some inertia to overcome before Americans once again flock to restaurants, events or the gym. Around 40% of respondents say they are less likely to do these things in the short term, versus 20% who say they are more likely (the remaining 40% say they won’t change their existing habit). And looking further ahead, the biggest consumer priority post-pandemic? Boosting personal savings to cope with the expected economic downturn.
The full Wine Intelligence US: COVID-19 Impact report will be published early May. To enquire about purchasing, please contact Courtney Abernathy.