Reasons to be cheerful in a tricky UK wine market

Monday, 21 October, 2013
Wine Intelligence
Wine Intelligence research has found that it's not all doom and gloom in the UK wine trade - despite some worrying sales statistics and changes in consumer behaviour.
The British as a whole are drinking less wine than they were a few years ago, per-capita consumption has slipped, and the proportion of consumers drinking wine more than once a week has fallen. Fewer consumers say they are open to experimentation with different wine styles, and more now describe wine as an "expensive" drink - no surprise when wages are failing to keep pace with either RPI or grocery inflation.

But Wine Intelligence has detected some encouraging signs in the UK, a market it recategorised as "established" a few years ago following decades of growth.

Wine Intelligence’s latest UK Landscape report finds that:

• More consumers now feel competent in their wine knowledge (33% in 2013, compared to 32% in 2011)
• Based on their overall engagement with the category, more consumers can now be described as "high involvement"(29% now, 28% in 2011)
• More consumers (70%) now attach importance to a wine's grape variety or varieties than the promotional offer (66%), making this the number one buying cue
• Consumers are increasingly interested in the region a wine is from (52% list this as a purchase consideration, compared to 48% in 2011)

The research also finds that alcoholic strength is on the radar screens of consumers like never before. More than four in 10 wine drinkers take ABV into account when buying wine, double the proportion recorded two years ago.

Although Wine Intelligence warns that ongoing economic problems, and the Chancellor's duty escalator, will restrain future growth in the UK, there are likely to be areas of the market which see gains.

Chief operating officer Richard Halstead says: "With consumers increasingly concerned about alcohol levels, there is the potential for a mini-boom in wines that have more modest ABVs, either naturally or by design.

"The increase in high-involvement consumers is also good news for specialist independents and online retailers with upmarket or esoteric offers. These merchants have done well in recent times, admittedly within a market niche, and they’re broadening the outlook for wine lovers." 

He adds: "Although many consumers are finding wine less affordable, and some are cutting back or even dropping out of the market altogether, there are still some groups that are happy to spend more in pursuit of something new and interesting. The UK remains a market where unfamiliar wines from emerging countries and regions can find a receptive audience."