Amid some mixed signals arising from the pandemic and lockdown, the long run health of the US sparkling wine category looks encouraging.
Strange times abound in the US sparkling wine market. Consumer sentiment appears to be warming again towards sparkling wine after several months in the doldrums, according to our latest market report, publishing tomorrow. However, the picture remains annoyingly opaque.
Some of the longer run indicators are showing more positive signs – more people are drinking sparkling in the US than ever before, and Prosecco is still building a strong presence in market. And yet other indicators are showing negative – the loss of large-scale celebration opportunities are denting the premium end of the market, and other drinks, notably craft beer and cocktails, are nibbling away at the classic pre-dinner occasion.
One thing that is reasonably clear is that the full impact of the coronavirus pandemic is yet to be felt in the market, either economically or socially. While the major lockdown period had just ended at the time of the fieldwork for this report in late June to early July 2020, it seems consumers remain in a state of uncertainty in terms of socializing, making plans, and how well off they feel.
Our research findings reflect this holding-pattern mood, with consumers saying they are less likely to attend crowded events in the near future, and will focus more on saving money over the next 12 months. However, the immediate post-lockdown sentiment appears to show positive signs for the sparkling category, with recalled purchases of sparkling wine up (albeit from a lower level during lockdown).
As previously mentioned, the longer term picture also contains some hopeful signs for the category. Our long-run tracking of the sparkling wine population shows some fluctuations from year to year, but the overall trend remains positive, with 11% more people drinking sparkling wine in 2020 than in 2018 – an estimated total of around 50 million drinkers or 1 in 5 of the adult population. More encouraging is the rise in monthly sparkling wine consumers, up to an estimated 33 million from 28 million in 2018, a rise of 17%.
Some of the other long-run drinking trends appear to be continuing despite (or because of) the pandemic. There is a long-term trend towards moderation in several alcohol categories, including sparkling wine. The shorter term trend for sparkling indicates a more complex picture: a slight polarization between a core group of consumers, younger and with a male bias, who are opting for sparkling products on a weekly basis, and an older, more female-biased group who are cutting back to only occasional sparkling usage.
Prosecco remains the big growth story, with volumes up 50% since 2015. The awareness and usage stats are also significantly up, and evidence suggests Prosecco still has some way to go before it peaks – almost half of US sparkling drinkers are still unaware of it. For those who do know it, there appears to be lots of scope for innovation: excitement is growing about lower calorie, rosé and fruit or flavored options.