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Pandemic Fuels Wine Sales at Grocery

Gina Acosta, Progressive Grocer
Pandemic Fuels Wine Sales at Grocery
Lidl is famous for its expansive wine assortment.

While wine, beer and spirits have each experienced a boost in sales during the pandemic across grocery, drug and c-store channels, the wine category has been particularly strong.

Catalina's latest shopping data reveals a significant increase in wine sales for the 10-week period beginning Feb. 23 through May 2, 2020.

This uptick is across grocery and drug channels, when sheltering in place became more common versus the same period a year ago:

  • Wine total dollar sales increased by 38%, with unit sales up by 32%
  • The number of wine buyers increased by 16%
  • Dollars spent per wine buyer were up 15% — from $62.74 to $71.94 (for the total 10-week period)
  • Units purchased per wine buyer were up 10% — from 6.3 to 6.9 (for the total 10-week period)
  • 46% of wine buyers made a repeat purchase (2+ trips during the 10-week period) versus 36% a year ago
  • In 2020, 45% of trips included purchases of two or more bottles of wine, compared to 36% of trips in 2019
  • 3+ bottles were purchased this year on 19% of trips, compared to 14% of trips last year
  • 6+ bottles were purchased this year on 7.3% of trips, compared to 5.8% of trips last year

With two months of lockdown and the bulk of U.S. restaurants still closed for business, many new buyers have entered the category as well, and they are making repeat purchases.

"During times of crisis, new behaviors and habits emerge for some consumers while others return to the familiar," said Stephanie Gallo, chief marketing officer, E. & J. Gallo. "The rise of virtual observances - happy hours, baby showers, birthdays and even weddings - means consumers are using technology in new ways while enjoying wine and spirits as a part of their connections. Several of our wineries are now engaging consumers through weekly virtual happy hours with winemakers and cooking demonstrations with chefs."

According to Koupon, as virtual happy hours have become more popular, there has been a clear shift toward c-store visits later in the day, and a corresponding increase in the sales of adult beverages.

In the c-store channel, for the same 10-week period versus year ago:

  • Wine total dollar sales were up 9%, beer was up 6%, and spirits up 24%
  • 32% of wine buyers were new to the category within c-store, and 17% of these first-time buyers have made a repeat purchase
  • For consumers buying both before and during the crisis, wine basket size was up 4%, beer up 11% and spirits up 6%

"During the initial panic-buy period, the wine category saw the same consumer pantry-loading behaviors as other categories like paper towels and shelf-stable goods," said Jeff Dubiel, chief marketing officer of The Wine Group. "As we have seen with previous crises, the increased purchase and consumption continued to hold following the initial wave of pantry-loading as consumers adapted to sheltering in place. Americans are resilient, and we have seen and heard wine enthusiasts finding inventive news ways, such as virtual happy hours and wine tastings - to enjoy their favorite beverages with friends and family."

For the week ending May 3, convenience store sales have returned to year-over-year growth levels across the majority of in-store categories. As more states begin to reopen and consumers adjust to a new normal, consumer goods producers, including the wine category, will continue to adapt.

"We have seen shifts in consumer behavior where larger indulgences like vacations are being replaced with small moments of joy and reward, such as a nice glass of wine at the end of the day. Consumers are moving toward leading brands that are comfortable and familiar," Dubiel said. "The way consumers interact, shop and spend their time has morphed into a more digital experience, so our ability to quickly adjust our engagement during the pandemic has been important. As an example, when the Coachella music festival was postponed, Cupcake Vineyards provided a 'Couchella' live stream event – and a chance to win Coachella tickets for the rescheduled event in October."

Meanwhile the latest Nielsen data shows that alcohol e-commerce has more than doubled compared to this time one year ago. Wine has enjoyed the largest success, making up nearly 70% of total online retail sales tracked in the report.

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