Lockdown drinking trends in 2020

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Argentinian wine, rosé and Ready To Drink (RTD’s) were some of the alcoholic beverages which saw a remarkable uplift in retail sales during lockdowns and restrictions in 2020.

The Wine and Spirit Trade Association’s latest Market Report which gathers alcohol sales data – covering sales in supermarkets, shops and pubs, bars and restaurants – shows consumers were experimenting with new tipples during the pandemic.

In the 12 months to 26th December 2020 the sales of wine from Argentina in UK supermarkets and shops went up a staggering 41% compared to the year before.

Five years ago in 2016, UK wine drinkers bought just under 7 million bottles of Argentinian wine. Last year Brits bought over 50 million bottles.

Wine proved to be a big hit with UK shoppers during 2020 with rosé seeing the biggest uplift in sales compared to 2019, shooting up 22% in volume, with over 113 million bottles sold. This compares to just over 22 million bottles sold in 2016.

Although rosé wine sales have seen a meteoric rise in the last five years sales of red and white wine still remain considerably higher. Last year in shops and supermarkets sold almost 508 million bottles of white wine and close to 434 million bottles of red.

Another notable trend last year was a big increase in the number of RTD’s – for example gin and tonics and cocktails in cans, along with new products like hard seltzers – sold in our supermarkets and shops.

In 2020 Brits spent £412 million, on beverages from Ready to Drink category, up 23% on the previous year. This is almost double the value of RTDs five years ago when the category was worth £234.

Miles Beale, Chief Executive of the Wine and Spirit Trade Association, said:

“The latest WSTA Market Report gives us a fascinating insight into what people have been drinking at home during the pandemic. With pubs closed and the opportunity for fun in short supply it appears that people have been looking to break up the mundane by exploring new tastes and tipples.

“This has clearly benefited Argentinian wine makers who had been steadily gaining more UK customers in recent years but made a massive leap in sales last year. Similarly rosé has been on the up in recent years but was given an extra boost in 2020 during the lockdowns and the warm weather. Interestingly the rosé trend continued during the winter months.

“RTDs are another category which has been gaining ground at a rapid rate. Last year consumer curiosity and convenience drove a real boom in the variety of mixed drinks cans on the market, with consumers trying out new drink experiences in smaller packaging.

“With the hospitality sector once again being able to host people indoors from Monday it will be interesting to see if these new home drinking preferences creep into consumers drinking habits when we are back into our favourite pubs and restaurants.”

Joe Turner, category manager for wine at Co-op, said:

“Looking at last year, the unfortunate closure of the hospitality industry naturally had an impact on supermarket sales as customers were looking to recreate their favourite tipples at home. The sun was shining for the early part of lockdown, so we saw sales of Rosé wine consistently increase, by at least 47 per cent each week and was the best-selling of the whole Co-op French wine offering during that period. Over the same period, sales of premium Rosé increased by as much as 186 per cent highlighting that people were happier to spend a bit more on one bottle to make the most of at-home drinking occasions. At Co-op, Argentina is the country category that has seen the biggest value growth during the last twelve months, ahead of New Zealand, Chile, Australia, with a YoY increase of over 40 per cent in value sales by the end of last year.”

With plenty of good news for wine and spirit makers who supply supermarkets and shops this is not reflected in the sales data covering UK pubs, bars and restaurants.

The hospitality sector was forced to close for much of last year, and only permitted to re-open under strict restrictions.

It came as a huge blow to the hospitality sector when gearing up for the Christmas trading period, the busiest time of the year, that venues were told they would once again have to close. The losses of missing out on the crucial revenue that the holiday festivities provided were devastating.

Latest figures from the WSTA’s Market Report show that during 2020, sales of both still wine and spirits in the on-trade are down 60% in volume terms on 2019, pre-pandemic levels.

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