Global wine analysis company Wine Intelligence has revealed that wine is enjoying a ‘mini-boom’ in the COVID-19 era, but that there are dark economic clouds on horizon.

A new report, drawing on tracking data collected from seven major wine consumption markets in April and August 2020, shows that the growth in wine consumption occasions comes as online sales of wine have exploded in markets where regulations permitted this channel, with younger and more involved wine drinkers leading the surge.

However, Wine Intelligence says that some of the data will raise concerns about the sustainability of this growth, given the deteriorating economic environment and possible pressure on household finances in the coming months.

“So far, many consumers have traded down in terms of their spend per bottle of wine to fund the increasing volume of purchase, and have returned to more mainstream, trusted brands at the expense of less well known and more pricey offerings,” says the report.

“Consumer responses about their broader economic behaviour also indicate a general tightening of belts will occur during the coming months, with household savings prioritised ahead of any large purchases, and the motivation to spend on luxuries, which initially surged in the early weeks of lockdown, has now subsided.”

Wine Intelligence says that in most markets, the future of the on-premise channel and hospitality generally looks very uncertain.

“Our data earlier this year pointed to wine being one of the winners of lockdown, and this trend has solidified over the past few months,” says Wine Intelligence CEO Lulie Halstead.

“Producers and off-premise retailers with strategies focused on their heartland of high involved, frequent drinkers have found reward, while new occasions have prompted a different dynamic in terms of product and packaging.

“The worry for our category remains the extent and longevity of the economic downturn,” she says.

“Household finances across many markets are currently benefiting combination of job retention schemes and lack of spending on vacations and going out, but this may not last. The broader issue of consumer confidence in the economy, and in their own safety, may start to weigh on the category in 2021.”

Global Wine Consumer Trends in the Covid-19 era according to Wine Intelligence:

  • Growth in wine consumption frequency with the shift to at-home occasions more than compensating for the loss of on-premise occasions
  • Heartland wine drinkers driving growth with growth in wine coming from women, Gen X and those already connected with wine
  • Non-food occasions driving wine growth bringing opportunity for wine to migrate to occasions where other beverages have been more dominant in the past
  • Slow recovery in average bottle spend on wine in the off-premise, but remains below pre-pandemic levels in most markets
  • E-commerce for wine comes of age and it is rapidly becoming a new and habitual way of shopping for wine
  • Shift to wines seen as a safe choice and ‘localism’ with mainstream and local wine brands winning
  • Consumers increasingly cautious in their lifestyles with confident ‘Hedonist’ segment shrinking as 2020 progresses, and an increasing proportion of ‘Halters’ and ‘Reducers’
  • Large scale events off the agenda with consumers seeking to avoid crowds, even when restrictions are lifted and the current dangers of the pandemic have passed
  • Travel plans remain on hold with overseas and international travel not on the agenda for wine drinkers, even when travel restrictions are lifted
  • Consumers becoming more distant from the on-premise, shifting socialising patterns
  • Treat-seeking behaviour losing momentum as consumer spending becoming more conservative
  • US wine market returns to growth as wine consumption frequency grew strongly in the US, driven by Millennials

Source: Wine Intelligence Wine Consumer Trends in the Covid-19 Era, published October 2020

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