Leaps in wine consumption do not often happen in mature markets, yet for some countries, such as Germany, Sweden, and the UK, wine consumption surged in 2020, reversing previous trends of long-term decline or static consumption.
In many cases, the wine category benefited from an easy transition to the at-home consumption, but there were other factors at play as well.
These spikes in volume consumption are expected to moderate or return to previous long-term trajectories going forward, but how will consumer behaviour evolve?
Wine volumes in Sweden grew by 9% in 2020, according to the IWSR, with the category benefitting from the shift to at-home drinking. Some of the volume increases arose from Swedes just purchasing their alcohol domestically, rather than abroad on holiday or at border shops in Germany and Norway. Additionally, a key change in consumer habits during 2020 was a growing number of high frequency wine drinkers – those drinking wine at least twice a week – and long-term growth in involvement in the wine category.
The market is expected to correct itself in 2021, with some domestic volumes from 2020 likely to transfer back to border shops and as more consumers return to the on-premise. Wine Intelligence consumer research indicates that Sweden’s wine drinkers are emerging from Covid with more confidence than a year ago, more intentions to go out, drink alcohol and have a good time.
Short-term changes in purchasing options, including the burgeoning e-commerce wine retail sector, also appears to be driving growth in volumes, as well as spend per bottle, the latter edging up by around 8-10% over the past 4 years, according to Wine Intelligence data.
However, the Swedish wine market is growing increasingly reliant on high frequency wine drinkers over the age of 55, and the category appears to be losing the interest of younger adult drinkers, particularly those between the legal drinking age of 18 and 24. The Gen-Z group, if they are drinking wine at all, are shifting between a wide array of beverages, especially cider and cocktails, and still wine especially is struggling for attention. Fortunately, younger adult consumers are much more engaged in the sparkling wine category, which has continued its strong growth story in 2020 despite restrictions on socialising and celebrations arising from Covid-19.
Still wine in Germany has always been heavily skewed towards the off-trade, and the category saw volume increases of 3% in 2020, resonating with consumers at home during lockdowns. Despite a good year in 2020, wine is likely to return to mild decline again, continuing its historical long-term trend, according to the IWSR.
Locally produced wines fared particularly well as the pandemic boosted a trend towards regionality. German consumers are continuing to increase their spend on wine as well, as they look for opportunities to treat themselves, according to Wine Intelligence research. This change in the very value-driven market has been accelerated by the pandemic, and is especially driven by younger LDA wine drinkers who don’t mind spending a few extra euros per bottle. The caveat though, is that they also expect a more interesting product in return.
“Brands that deliver a story or innovation, as well as those that are accessible through multiple purchase channels, will continue to resonate with this age segment,” notes Tina Fruth, client manager at Wine Intelligence.
Still wine experienced a boost in 2020 in the UK, as consumers got back into the habit of drinking wine during lockdowns, driven by the category’s suitability to e-commerce and low-tempo occasions. 2020 delivered its first year of still wine volume growth after more than a decade in the UK, according to the IWSR. Wine will adjust downwards in the short term as the on-trade recovers, but the longer-term prospects for wine are more positive than they were before the pandemic.
The UK wine drinking population may be shrinking, but it is getting more engaged in wine and more confident about experimenting. Regular wine drinkers under 55 are more likely to be highly involved in the category, possibly due to a more adventurous and curious attitude. Younger LDA consumers have the strongest motivation to discover and learn; half of those aged under-35 state they enjoy trying new and different styles of wine on a regular basis (vs. 31% of those over 55).
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