Most major wine brands may have seen solid volume performances in 2020 thanks to core consumers stocking up, but the challenge for brand owners in the post-Covid era will be to restore connections with their wider audience
The fourth edition of the Wine Intelligence Global Wine Brand Power Index, published today, rather neatly offers a before-and-after picture of the Covid era. Our 2020 edition was published in March 2020, 2 weeks before most economies started significant lockdowns, showed a picture of the leading global wine brands that would have satisfied most brand owners appearing on the list, with a few minor concerns. By contrast, the 2021 Index shows a precipitous and widespread decline in key measures of brand health such as recalled purchase, affinity, recommendation and future purchase consideration – in other words, the lifeblood of long-term future brand success and value.
Paradoxically, because this effect was so widespread, the relative changes within the top brands in individual markets and at a global level was relatively insignificant. As measured by the Index’s components of awareness, recalled purchase, and ‘connection’ (a blend of affinity, recommendation, and future purchase consideration), the most powerful wine brand in the world remains Australia’s iconic Yellow Tail, followed by Chile’s equally distinctive wine Casillero del Diablo. Third place remains a slugging contest between Gallo of the US and Jacob’s Creek of Australia, with the latter displacing the former in third place in 2021, in a reverse of the 2020 result.
In fact, the Global Index retains 14 out of 15 members in 2021 versus the previous year, with the only change being the entry of Campo Viejo into the top 15, at the expense of Carlo Rossi. This apparent stability masks some volatility at a market level, where Casillero del Diablo in particular has been making gains, seizing the number one position in Sweden and Mexico for the first time, and entering the top three in the UK. In doing so it has narrowed the overall gap with Yellow Tail from 11 index points to seven, and has extended its lead over Jacob’s Creek in third place to 10 points.
However the more profound question is how the world’s leading wine brands restore some of the lost ground in terms of recalled purchase and connection, which have declined across the board in 2020 and coincide with – and would appear to be linked with – the unprecedented global disruption to going-out lifestyle, shopping behaviours and relationship with the wine category that has accompanied the Covid era.
Of these, perhaps the most significant ‘Covid factors’ affecting the 2021 Brand Power Index is the shuttering of the on-premise and the lack of time, headspace and motivation for consumers to spend time in wine retailing settings evaluating purchases, or chatting with the shop manager at a wine specialist. Clearly this is not an issue for consumers who were already of the grab-and-go disposition, whose behaviour hasn’t really changed during the pandemic; nor would it have affected the dedicated enthusiast, whose information needs were most likely answered by increased Google searching and maybe a direct-to-home wine club. Instead it seems to be the large segments of wine drinkers who occupy the middle ground in most markets – interested enough in wine, but not obsessive – who have defaulted to a lower-level relationship with the category generally, and appear to have shrunk their portfolios of leading brands that they use, enjoy and recommend – though sales figures would suggest this hasn’t reduced the volume of wine purchases generally in most markets.
As a consequence of this relatively small behaviour shift by a large cohort of consumers across major markets, Global Index scores are consistently lower in 2021 across the board, with the main source of this decline being a reduction in the pool of consumers saying they have purchased a given brand, and a loss of ‘connection’ with brands, as measured by, variously, affinity, recommendation, and future purchase consideration.
It’s quite possible that, once normal route to market service is restored, that these measures will bounce back. However the situation represents a real and immediate challenge to leading brand owners to rebuild their relationships with their global audience, at a time when other beverage categories such as RTDs and spirits are competing strongly for wine’s share of drinking occasions.