It’s summer, so “wine” not enjoy it?

Wine did very nicely under lockdown and is still strong even as the on-trade re-opens (sort of). The word is that it’s trusted brands which are now best for sales.

Photo: iStock

“Wine o’clock” has been the standby and saviour of a nation stuck indoors, and sales figures underline the fact: the year of the pandemic was a great year for wine sales. 2020 saw alcohol over-performing in the convenience sector with an enormous +70.1% uplift, driven by an increase in shoppers buying locally, and an exponential rise of in-home occasions as pubs and restaurants closed down. Wine was an important part of it.

A world of wine

“While sales of beer, wine, and spirits (BWS) have slowed in the convenience channel in recent weeks due to the reopening of pubs, bars and hospitality, like-for-like BWS growth is still up +30% compared to 2019,” says Tom Smith, Head of Marketing – Europe, at Accolade Wines.

Now the on-trade is (stutteringly) open up again, sales are inevitably falling back, but as Smith informs us, “beer sales have been hit harder than wine and value growth of still wine in convenience is up 14% in the past 12 months.”

That rise has been fuelled by mid-range and slightly premiumised bottles of the sort that are natural top-sellers in the impulse channel. “The biggest volume of wine sales within convenience remains from the core price range, £6-£7,” says Smith, “and these should be at the heart of any retailer’s wine category. There has also been growth in the £7+ bottles and with wine-on-tap options.”

He argues that this shows the importance of offering trade-up wines in store, linked to the trend for treating, and demand for portion control products, with consumers deciding to drink one glass of wine with an evening meal. “Mud House has seen growth in convenience in the past year by offering shoppers an accessible trade up to £8+ wine.”

Photo: iStock

Indeed, the great appeal and strength of wine in convenience is trusted, value-driven quality brands that consumers can reach for without hesitation.

Accolade’s established and admired portfolio –including Hardys, Mud House, Jam Shed and Echo Falls – is a mainstay of any self-respecting BWS section.

Likewise, Concha y Toro’s (CyT) pedigree stable of mainly Chilean brands remain strong.  Trivento, its stand-out Argentinean wine, recently saw the Reserve Malbec become the best-selling red sku in UK retail and Trivento becoming a top 10 wine brand for the first time in April. It joins CyT’s other two brands, Casillero del Diablo (#4) and Isla Negra (#8), in the Top 10 wine brands.

“We are investing significantly in our key brands Casillero del Diablo, Cono Sur and Trivento to drive their awareness and household penetration (the number of households that purchase them). TV campaigns, YouTube ads and ongoing longer-term partnerships continue to deliver great results for these brands and make them more recognised than ever,” said Marketing Manager Claire Raine,

E & J Gallo has recently added three new wines to its portfolio under the Prophecy brand with some very attractive artwork on the bottles that should catch the eye of shoppers: Prophecy Cabernet Sauvignon 2019, which won the Gold medal at Mundus Vini, Prophecy Malbec 2019and Prophecy Sauvignon Blanc 2020 – both awarded Bronze medalsat the IWC.

The Cabernet Sauvignon label features “The Emperor”, holding court from a throne of mountains; the Malbec label depicts “The Magician”; the Sauvignon Blanc label features “The High Priestess” with her green robes representing the crisp, refreshing taste that is emblematic of Chilean Sauvignon Blanc. The E & J Gallo Prophecies are all at RRP £9, and as Accolade’s Smith points out, “The convenience wine shopper looks for simplicity and speed but is willing to trade up providing communication is clear and encouraging, which makes it such a rich opportunity for retailers to amplify their sales.”

He points out that the average spend in a convenience store without a wine purchase is £7.42, but with wine it is almost 50% more. And with the average customer visiting their local store on average three times a week, a well-stocked and labelled wine category can quickly help to increase sales.

It is the right time to advertise, and Gallo as well as CyT is doing just that with its long-established (1960s!) Barefoot brand, which has experienced incredible growth over the past 12 months, with volume sales up by +38%, bringing in an additional £84.6M to the wine category in 2020. Its new “Let’s get Barefoot” TV ad, bound to boost sales, is airing now until the end of August.

James Robinson of Liberty Wines, suppliers of summer classic Mateus Rosé, adds to the argument in favour of trusted brands, saying they make for an easy impulse purchase decision. “Mateus Rosé has grown extremely well in the Impulse channel over the past year, far ahead of the category (+63% Mateus value growth vs. 32% total rosé),” he says. “The new bottle design has been very effective at driving sales to a younger consumer, with a 250ml Can format also available later in the year.”

Treasury Wine Estates, meanwhile, is pushing hard on brand innovation, with a new edition of its famous 19 Crimes infused with … a shot of Cold Brew Coffee. Perhaps it’s the wine that can help you the morning after as well.

“Consumers are constantly looking for new and exciting products within the category and we’ve seen that under 35’s are intrigued by wine fusion products whilst 55% of global

consumers say they’re interested in trying the newest flavours and fragrances,” says TWE’s Ben Blake, Head of Marketing EMEA.“By blurring the categories and crossing into new territories, we’re confident this new proposition will ignite consumers interest to further discover the category and try new flavours and innovations.”

Bubbles – the year of the seltzer

To quote a Simpsons character: “Fad or not, it’s here to say”, and it seems fair to repeat that remark about what we are crowning this year’s “bubbles” category champion: the hard seltzer, which is beginning to look like a commercial phenomenon already worth over £4.3m in the UK. According to Kantar, hard seltzers are so popular that 76% of UK beer drinkers would consider choosing one as a first-choice drink – hinting at how much further the category has left to expand. RTDs as a whole are a revolution in the making: AB InBev reckons that 85% of UK consumers have already purchased an RTD product.

Hard Seltzers arrived here pretty recently from the USA but have been picked up by almost every producer, coinciding as they did with the trend towards single-serves and drinks in cans – including wine and especially Spritzers (there seems something almost compulsory about bubbles in cans). 

Bodega Bay hard seltzer

“This year’s summer of sport will offer the ideal social occasion, with single serve and can formats continuing to grow in popularity, because of ease and price point,” says Accolade’s Smith, adding that these formats have been particularly successful in the convenience channel, “also indicating that health, moderation, and sustainability (with reduced chance of waste from small formats) remain a priority for consumers. ”Hard seltzer are proving particularly strong with younger female consumers. They are clean, delicately flavoured and easy-to-drink without being overpowering or heavy – and they are lighter on calories than beer. Likewise canned (sparkling) wines are appealing to the on-the-move younger set. 

“Canned wine continues to go from strength to strength, as a convenient format that can be consumed immediately – ideal for barbeques, meeting friends in the park or travelling to events,” notes James Robinson, and the whole can eco-system blends seamlessly into the hard seltzer category.

Echo Falls launched its first ever Rosé Seltzers in August 2020, intended to appeal to consumers looking to moderate their alcohol consumption and to capitalise on the category’s continued growth.

Paul Hargreaves of Cotswold Fayre says: “These alcoholic carbonated waters, packaged in slimline cans, are fairly low in calories, with a similar strength to beer, at around 4% – and very much aimed at the young female market. We are introducing a couple of brands to our portfolio in 2021 so I’m keen to see how the market develops.” 

“We’re expecting seltzers to be huge this summer, as Brits seek out light, ready-to-drink options for spontaneous gatherings with friends,” said Jessica Markowski, Convenience Sales Director at Budweiser Brewing Group UK&I. “Seltzers have a proven track record of sales growth during the summer months, we saw a 36% uplift in July and August 2020. The recently launched Bud Light Seltzer, available in lemon-lime, passionfruit, and strawberry flavours, is a great choice for those looking for refreshing, naturally flavoured options this summer.”

BBG UK & I also have the Mike’s hard seltzer brand, “which is doing very, very well as one of the most highly-penetrative brands in the category,” confides Mark Wingfield-Digby, Off-Trade Sales Director.

“While it’s still early days in Europe, we’re expecting the hard seltzer category to follow a similar pattern to the US, where retail sales reached $4.1bn in 2020, more than double the previous year,” commented Kevin Fawell, Off-Trade Sales Director at Molson Coors Beverage Company, whose hard seltzer brand, Three Fold, comes in three fruity variants : Red Berries, Tropical and Citrus, containing just 93 calories per 330ml can.

“We also secured an exclusive distribution partnership in 2020 with hard seltzer brand Bodega Bay and rolled out their range to the UK off-trade. The California-inspired brand has a premium feel, enhanced by its flavour variants – Elderflower, Lemon & Mint; Cherry, Mango & Goji; and Apple, Ginger & Acai Berry – which offer a real point of difference for those consumers looking for more sophisticated and diverse options,” he adds.

Among the other hard seltzers rapidly appearing and flaunting their summer shelf appeal is Asahi’s Viper, brewed with water pumped from 100m below sea level and launched in the UK last month (RRP £2.20 with 96Kcal per serve); Aston Manor’s Sol Duc, which is described as “a refined mix of sparkling water, pure vodka and natural fruit flavours” (RRP £2 per can); Smirnoff’s 4.7% ABV Seltzer in Raspberry & Rhubarb and Orange & Grapefruit in a 250ml RTD can (RRP £1.80); White Claw – a blend of seltzer water, triple distilled spirit, and a hint of fruit flavour with 95 calories per 330ml serving; andLoch Lomond Group’s forrit Botanic Hard Seltzer, in slim cans (ABV 4.5%)in three flavours: Peach, Lemon & Mint, Watermelon, Lime &Basil; and Strawberry, Rhubarb & Ginger.

US brand Four Loko has also just arrived, with energy-drink stylings (the clue is in the name), big 440ml cans and a massive 8.5% ABV for serious hard seltzer fans of Blue, Fruit Punch, Gold and Sour Apple flavours – get it through Filshill and other selected wholesalers: “We’ll be launching with a significant marketing spend to drive core visibility and category visibility with activations, disruptive POS, category signage in the off-trade arena, social media and digital execution online, and campaign led influencer programs across the summer,” said Gavin Woodroofe, UKIRE Manager, Phusion Projects.

Enjoy a summer full of fizz.