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February 2015

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ProWein 2015 – Survey Summary / February 25, 2015


It’s a widely accepted fact in the global wine sector that the retail channels through which wine is sold to consumers are in an unprecedented state of flux. A more urbanized and connected global wine drinking population are changing their shopping habits and these demands are reshaping the way retailers operate and merchandise in the wine category and in general. The core question is how these changes are manifesting in terms of observable trends in key markets. Which channels are winning and losing? Which retailers are doing better than others? And perhaps the most important question of all: are there discernible patterns in the channel trends across different markets which would allow us to draw more broad conclusions about the way wine is sold globally?

Study scope: markets representing 50% of world’s wine consumption

The organizers of ProWein, the leading trade fair for the international wine and spirits sector, commissioned Wine Intelligence to address these questions. The scope of the report encompassed eight markets which together represent a representative cross-section of the worldwide wine market. Using existing published data in addition to Wine Intelligence’s own databases, this report publishes for the first time estimates of growth trends in retail channels. Data from the United States, the world’s largest market for wine, and from Germany and the UK, respectively No. 1 and No. 2 in terms of imported wine volumes, were analyzed. Also Japan and Australia, both of which have been showing healthy wine volume growth of late; and finally three markets where wine has traditionally sold in huge volumes, but are in long-term decline: France, Spain and Italy.

Between them, these eight markets account for over 12 billion liters of wine consumed in 2013 (source: IWSR), or around 50% of the approximately 24 billion liters of wine consumed globally (source: OIV). It follows therefore that any changes in these markets, either suddenly or over time, will influence the global supply chain and eventually affect both producers and consumers.

8 markets: several themes, many differences

Those looking for a single, unifying theory of wine retail trends may be initially disappointed by the content of this report. Each of the countries surveyed appears to be its own ecosystem, with different regulatory and business climates. Popular business notions of globalization and “convergence” of business models don’t quite square with the reality of wine retail environments which are subject to different legal structures and different consumer expectations. While in most cases changes are taking place, some of far-reaching proportions, the pace of change is generally quite slow. This should not come as a surprise: consumers are creatures of habit, and tend not to make radical changes when it comes to buying their groceries and beverages. Also, the established retailers have a natural advantage over any new channel or retailer type: they occupy the best sites, have the highest degree of brand awareness and benefit most from consumer lethargy. In this climate, traditional business models can persist, while new ones can struggle to break into the market short term.

The convenience revolution: frequent shopping, smaller baskets

Having adjusted expectations, there are some interesting multi-country trends that have been uncovered by this report. Perhaps the most noticeable in several of the key markets is the consumer trend towards buying groceries more often, in less quantity, and including wine in this behavior.Generally speaking (because channel definitions at a country level tend to have subtle differences) this means that the “convenience” channel has been growing in importance for wine in countries like the UK, United States, France and Spain.

The drivers of this trend are reasonably well known, and arise mainly from the increasing urbanization of population, decreasing car ownership and car usage in some markets (caused by rising oil prices and car taxes). This “urbanization-economizing model” is especially true in Spain. In some markets, the beneficiaries of this trend are the same retailers who already dominate other channels. This especially applies to the UK and France, where “local” versions of the main supermarket brands have migrated back into towns and cities over the past 10 years, after having spent the last decades of the 20th Century persuading consumers that grocery shopping was best done at large out of town stores with car parking. In other markets, such as the U.S., the recent liberalization of Prohibition era laws to allow drugstores and grocery stores to sell beer and wine have boosted the “convenience” channel.

Online models grow rapidly

Another multi-country trend worth noting is the growth of direct-to-home, or online-based shopping models. These also come in several characteristics - from the UK’s advanced online grocery shopping networks, to the growing “click and collect” systems in France, and the specialist direct-to-home retailers (including wineries) in the U.S. In these countries and, to a certain extent, in countries such as Australia and Spain, the new communications technology has spurred a change in consumer channel usage to the more virtual but information rich online shop.

Consolidation remains a strong trend

A long-standing trend in global retail - consolidation – remains a force in some markets. The displacement and/or acquisition of owner operator and small chain wine retailers by national, or trans-national chains, often supermarkets, remains influential in markets such as Germany and Italy. In Germany, powerful discount chains have been the main driver, however recently the trend has developed a new aspect, which is the drive by mainstream supermarkets to occupy more premium market space, putting specialist wine shops under pressure.

Conclusions: polarization of needs between convenience and information-rich channels

What, then, are the implications of these multi-country trends for producers and brand owners? The first, more general point, is for them to recognize that retailers are having to balance two arguably divergent changes in their consumers’ behavior. On the one hand, the growth of convenience purchasing could mean that this channel needs a smaller range of wines in general, with a greater proportion being strong, visible and reliable wine brands, which lend themselves easily to a quick, low-involvement purchase decision. On the other hand, the growth of online and remote shopping suggests a corresponding need for a broader and more information-rich range in this channel – less brand, perhaps, and more about the origin and history.

Specifically, the trends suggest that wine businesses need to adopt differing product and service strategies to these growing channels, while recognizing that in some markets, the same customers that have dominated the routes to market of 10-20 years ago are also controlling the newer channels. In other markets, such as the U.S., there are new channels and new supply chain customers (mainly the convenience store chains) which are looking to grow their market share at the expense of liquor stores and traditional supermarkets.

A summary of this report will be presented at this year’s ProWein on Monday, March 16 from 10:15 -11:00 am in the ProWein Forum in Hall 13. A printed version of the report will be available for purchase following the presentation for Euro 249 plus VAT (Euro 199 plus VAT for ProWein 2015 exhibitors).

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