The UK’s 28 million wine consumers are getting used to the idea of not going to restaurants, events and to the airport. What’s left? Online shopping and more wine occasions.
Many industries and sectors are suffering unprecedented loss of business as a result of government restrictions to slow the spread of coronavirus in the UK – including bars, restaurants and the travel industry.
It might not seem surprising therefore in this context that the UK’s 28 million wine consumers are drinking more wine at home, more frequently, than they were at the beginning of March, before lockdown restrictions were imposed in the UK. Perhaps more notable is that total wine drinking occasions have increased in number despite the lack of an on-trade environment.
The new Wine Intelligence UK COVID-19 Impact Report polled a nationally representative sample of 1,000 UK-resident monthly wine drinkers during late March and early April to understand how their wine drinking behaviour was changing as a result of the restrictions due to the coronavirus. As is becoming a pattern with other major wine markets, the findings suggest that committed wine drinkers have become more committed. They have found new occasions for wine drinking during lockdown: at lunchtime, or catching up with friends online, or replacing the trip to the restaurant with a more indulgent evening meal.
Having seen a sharp increase in sales at the start of the lockdown period in March, volumes of wine sold through off-trade are still trading ahead of normal. As has been reported extensively, the online channel has been the big winner of the lockdown, with the desirable younger, affluent and urban-dwelling wine drinkers leading the way to supermarket and direct-to-home wine websites and doing so more frequently than they did pre-lockdown.
As with other markets, the growing volume of wine purchased has been tempered by a decline in the average price per bottle paid overall, according to the research, despite being on a rising trajectory in both off trade and on trade over the previous 12 months. All drinker typologies, from the most involved Generation Treaters to the least involved Kitchen Casuals, spent relatively less than they normally do. Part of this might have been the decline in visits to specialist wine shops, and the increase in supermarket, convenience store and supermarket website purchases.
It is probably no coincidence that those consumers who have become more frequent wine drinkers during lockdown are those who were the more regular drinkers previously. Drinkers aged 25-54 were most likely to have added additional wine drinking occasions. More wine involved and frequent Portraits segments of Adventurous Explorers and Generation Treaters have been the most enthusiastic adopters of wine with meals – including lunch. However, wine drinkers from the Gen Z cohort – those aged 18-24 – reduced their frequency of wine drinking more than others, perhaps more affected by the loss of socialising opportunities.
Finally, when it comes to the future, the British wine drinker is understandably quite cautious about their household finances and the idea of getting on a plane. Mercifully for the wine category, and in common with consumers in other markets, UK wine drinkers are still choosing to buy wine even as their plans for summer holidays get put on hold.