wine consumption

How has wine consumption transformed in a post-pandemic world?

By Nandini Roy Choudhury

Wine consumption is deeply ingrained across multiple cultures and global consumption has seen a considerable increase in the past several years. While per-capita wine consumption is the highest in Portugal, Italy, and France, amounting to over 35 litres per person per year, the U.S, China, and France are the largest markets given their cumulative population size.

Future Market Insights found that overall global wine demand is expected to reach nearly one trillion tons in 2022, and the overall market is forecast to surpass US$840 billion by 2032, expanding at a CAGR of 5.1 per cent across the forthcoming decade. Additionally, wine consumption will comprise between two and four per cent of the global alcoholic beverages industry.

While the COVID-19 pandemic has significantly overshadowed future expansion prospects, it has also opened significant growth frontiers, especially with regard to penetration of some lesser-known product lines. Furthermore, consumer sentiments, including a shift towards organic and clean-label beverage consumption, have heavier overtones than in the past.

COVID-19’s immediate impact on consumption and distribution

The COVID-19 pandemic has had multi-faceted impacts on the global wine industry. Overall, there was no change in consumption, but among those people who did change their habits, a larger proportion increased consumption. According to the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), for instance, sales increased by three to five per cent, especially across Germany, the U.K., and the U.S. in 2020. Online sales across the U.S surged by up to 234 per cent.

However, on-premises sales, especially across bars and restaurants, significantly plummeted, not least because immediately after the pandemic struck, distribution channel disruptions were experienced. Extensive closure and restrictions on restaurants and hotels globally caused a decline of 60 per cent in turnover across the sector. Restaurants were hit worse than hotels, experiencing a decline of over 90 per cent in sales in the immediate aftermath. Moreover, given the simultaneous global impact of the pandemic, a global decline in exports was documented.

Despite the chips appearing down, business leaders appeared quite optimistic, with many of them identifying fresh revenue streams. With the pandemic forcing consumers to stay at home, reliance on online retail platforms to purchase food and beverages inclined considerably. Both producers and retailers intensified online marketing by conducting online tastings and opening online shops and online delivery services.

Wine sellers and manufacturers have been increasingly diffusing supply chain risks by diversifying their presence across multiple sales channels. While around a quarter of them are shifting to food retailing and online, over two-fifths are aiming to expand direct-to-customer sales. Hence, while consumers enjoyed a largely uninterrupted wine supply globally, it was surmised that certain consequences of COVID-19 would lead to an increase in the proportion of price-sensitive consumers and reduced sales of premium wines.

The organic revolution: has the pandemic moved consumers to go green?

Undoubtedly, consumers have become highly health-consciouss with the  COVID-19 pandemic, which has increased consumer awareness about the relationship between nutrition and health. The wine market during COVID-19 also experienced a similar shift. As per Future Market Insights report, organic wine sales are expected to flourish at a 6.4 per cent CAGR until 2032.

Across the U.S., the organic and natural wine industry is increasingly making inroads into regions which were traditionally dominated by large national distributors and corporate-owned brands. For instance, in 2021, Winc Inc. reported that it saw an unprecedented increase in its organic wine business, with major national retailers including Walmart, Whole Foods, Albertsons, HEB, Central Market, and HyVee stocking them.

Attributed to the widening scope of ushering in sustainability in wine production and consumption, several manufacturers have turned towards incorporating environmentally friendly practices. A case in point is King Estate Winery, which has been practicing biodynamic grape farming since 2016. Biodynamic agriculture is a holistic approach to farming, treating the entire estate as a living organism, using time-honoUred methods to cultivate soil health such as crop rotation, composting and homeopathic sprays. Their soils are fed and supplemented by more than 1,000 tons of compost produced on the estate.

RELATED: A trending taste for natural wine

While the quest to ensure sustainable production and consumption practices has been prevalent for a long time, the pandemic has further heightened the need to opt for products that have been organically sourced. With a view to reducing transmission of zoonotic diseases among human beings, consumers and producers alike are adopting farming practices that deploy 100 per cent organic approaches.

e-Commerce to assume creative overtones

Although the post-pandemic world is largely opening up, online sales of various perishable and non-perishable commodities are forecast to remain elevated. While this is a welcome development, e-commerce providers are facing another seemingly insurmountable challenge – the ability to keep their clientele engaged.

Contemporary online marketing is all about discovering creative approaches to drive digital engagement and retaining customer loyalty. It all boils down to how leading wine distributors convince customers that purchasing different varieties online can be as enjoyable and gratifying as seeking advice on the best wine brand from a reputed offline wine merchant.

When it comes to innovating online distribution patterns, Vivino is a classic example. Founded in 2010, Vivino has over 50 million users, and 12.5 million wines in its catalogue. After gaining popularity as one of the top wine discovery apps, it slowly shifted its focus towards becoming the world’s largest online wine marketplace. To boost wine sales, it was essential for Vivino to segment new and existing users.

While it encouraged new users to scan their first bottle and give a rating or review to activate them, it also suggested personalized wine recommendations to frequent purchasers. The importance of mapping a user’s entire journey in-app became increasingly apparent as it realized its need to properly determine cost metrics and LTV models and improve its retargeting strategies to re-engage users. The company has utilized its partner Adjust’s Measure and Audience Builder interfaces, providing a clear picture of where installations were coming from and enabling it to increase its monthly budget output by 300 per cent.

Conclusion

It is evident that the popularity of wine as an alcoholic beverage is here to stay. In spite of sales coming to a grinding halt in the initial pandemic months, wine enthusiasts have discovered several approaches to circumvent these crunches to indulge in uninterrupted wine supplies.

In spite of healthcare stakeholders apprehending against the consumption of wines and other alcoholic beverages, a significant chunk of the population refrained from abstaining from consumption. Capitalizing on this trend, prominent manufacturers sought multiple ways of approaching potential customers.

The past two years have witnessed a major spike in online wine sales and distribution. As consumers become increasingly aware of their impact on the environment, they are transitioning towards purchasing clean-label and organically certified brands, a trend that is expected to influence future investment prospects to a significant extent.

Nandini Roy Choudhury is an experienced research professional and client research partner at ESOMAR-certified market research and consulting firm Future Market Insights (FMI), a leading provider of market intelligence and consulting services, serving clients in over 150 countries.

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