We’re drinking more wine sans food

By Nicki Bourlioufas

Consumers are increasingly drinking wine outside mealtimes, and the trend has gained momentum since the height of COVID-19 lockdowns, according to the latest data from UK research firm, Wine intelligence.

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“Our initial review of the data is showing some fascinating patterns, and not necessarily the ones we were expecting to see,” said Wine Intelligence CEO, Lulie Halstead.

“This data is showing the growing opportunity for wine as a drink of choice more frequently at non-food occasions, and suggests that wine might increasingly be taking market share from other categories,” she said.

The chart below from Wine Intelligence shows the change in frequency of wine consumption at meal time at home and at the end of the day in seven key countries. In short, the chart shows we are drinking more to relax at the end of the day in July compared to March-April, while drinking wine with a meal is less likely across markets (except in the US and Australia).

The dotted line indicates the changes in wine consumption in March-April, and the solid line is the same response in July. Both are indexed scores based on a classic five-point scale answer (drinking much more at this occasion through to drinking much less), with the size of the up or down arrow proportionate to the net change recorded.

The chart below indicates that the solid lines or arrows pointing up on the left, or having a ‘relaxing drink at home’ have clearly risen more than drinking wine with an informal meal at home.

At the height of lockdown, in March and April, all of the seven markets bar one recorded an increase in the at-home-without-food drinking occasion; similarly, all of the markets bar one saw a fall in recalled wine consumption with a meal.

“Our interpretation at the time was that, as most people were home during the day, the traditional routine of a drink only with dinner was probably being disrupted – and watching the news at the time may have been an incentive for more people reach for a glass. It also explained why overall wine sales volumes were mostly stable in these markets – and in some cases rose slightly,” says Halstead.

“Fast-forward to July, and we see an intriguing picture emerge. The decline in wine with food has reversed or at least moderated in most markets (with China showing the biggest change). At the same time, at-home drinking without food has actually increased in frequency. There might be some seasonal effect in this change, with northern hemisphere summer normally coinciding with more outdoor, non-food occasions, but the trend also seems present in mid-winter Australia,” she said.


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