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Number of regular UK wine drinkers drops by one million in three years

Published:  13 December, 2018

Britain is steadily losing its core wine drinkers to other beverage categories, while those who remain loyal to the category are drinking less often.

In line with declining consumption patterns over the past few years, research has found another significant decrease in the frequency of wine consumption in the past 12 months – a trend that continues from 2015.

Back then, around 29.5 million people were drinking wine at least once a month, and around 80% of these people were drinking wine at least once a week.

But data suggests that today, the overall monthly drinking population has fallen by about one million to 28.5 million, while the number of weekly drinkers has also fallen.

The research comes from Wine Intelligence’s latest market report, which picks out moderation, tough trading conditions and increased competition from other beverages as contributing factors to another dip in volume wine sales over the past year. 

Wine is having to jostle more and more for shelf space as it “no longer has ownership rights to the more sophisticated end of beverages”, said Chuan Zhou, research director at Wine Intelligence.

“UK regular wine drinkers who say they also drink beer and gin has increased significantly between 2017 and 2018, from 52% to 63% and from 36% to 44% respectively. Craft beer now talks about provenance, ingredients and style, and gin has become a remarkably vibrant and attention-grabbing category. Both of these trends are reflected in wine drinker behaviour.”

Wine is also being increasingly being seen as an expensive drink.

Thanks partly to duty increases and negative currency movements, the average consumer spend on wine has risen by 30p per bottle in the off-trade and 50p per bottle in the on-trade compared with a year ago. 

“It is not surprising to see demand levels change in light of increasing prices at a time of zero real wage growth in the economy, and the sense of uncertainty among consumers caused by the potential exit from the EU next March,” Zhou said.

The good news however, is that those who are drinking wine regularly are showing increased levels of involvement in the category, from younger, more moderate drinkers, to wine’s core customer base in the over 55 age group.

Nearly half of UK regular wine drinkers claim they are actively moderating their alcohol consumption, spread equally across age groups.

But at the same time, “a significantly larger proportion of UK regular wine drinkers are involved with wine compared with 2015”.

This could be anything from actively trying to grow their wine knowledge and being more “adventurous” with their wine choices.

Over 55s, which account for 42% of total wine drinking, are exhibiting a “discernible shift towards quality over quantity”, the report said, buying less but spending more when they do.

Younger drinkers, however – those 55 and under – are the major force for change in UK wine drinking habits.

Combining an interest with lighter, less alcoholic styles, they are also more adventurous than the upper age group.

Such trends have had a tangible impact on traditional buying habits. 

For example, Wine Intelligence notes a decline in the number of shoppers who say they have bought the UK’s top selling brands in the three months to July 2018 versus the same period the previous year. 

This is includes Blossom Hill, Jacob’s Creek and top Chilean brand Casillero del Diablo.