Global drinking trends - an image of a table with food and wine

Global drinking trends

Peter Bailey from our Market Insights team takes a look at the latest research in global drinking trends
Global drinking trends - an image of a table with food and wine

There have been times when fortified wines dominated sales in Australia. In the 1980s the dominance of rich and buttery Chardonnay seemed like it would never come to an end. While in the late 1990s the rise of big red styles bought fame and fortune to many before an almost inevitable backlash lead to the rise of lighter styles that dominate the scene today. It could be said that there is only one true constant in the world of wine, that wine trends will change and evolve just as the sun rises in the morning and sets in the evening.

In our latest story, Peter Bailey from our Market Insights team takes a look at the latest research in global drinking trends. Peter takes a look how at trends such as premiumisation, consumer evolution, wellness and convenience are impacting the global wine market. Given the significant macroeconomic and cultural differences that exist between different regions and countries, few trends can claim to be genuinely global. However, we can identify several broad trends that are influencing the global alcoholic drinks landscape as well as trends within the different drinks categories.

Premiumisation – The rise and rise of a global trend

Premiumisation is arguably the most significant trend influencing the global alcoholic drinks market.  Generally most regions and markets worldwide have seen consumers trading-up to higher-value products, across a wide range of categories. Driving this trend in more developed markets such as the United States (US) and Australia has been increasingly astute consumers keen to explore unique and interesting products. In developing markets such as China, premiumisation has been largely due to the emergence of an aspirational middle class seeking to assert their status.

The phenomenon has manifested itself in several ways in the global drinks market in recent years, including an explosion in the number of craft producers and brands in almost every category; the growth of premium niches such as ‘natural’ wines and Japanese whisky; and the revival in fortunes of aged brown spirits, taking advantage of their image of heritage and quality.

Economic downturns have dampened the impact of premiumisation in some regions, particularly Eastern Europe, Latin America and parts of Africa.

Australian wine exporters have been beneficiaries of the premiumisation trend with exports priced at A$10 or more per litre free on board growing by 19 per cent to a record A$574 million in 2016. There was double-digit growth in all premium price points with the exception of wines priced at A$200 per litre or more that had growth of 5 per cent.

How is consumer evolution impacting the wine market?

Across the globe, new consumer groups are becoming increasingly influential within the alcoholic drinks market, challenging the status quo and driving the development of new trends. The influence of millennial consumers in regions such as Australasia, Europe and North America has been well covered in recent years. With their demand for new flavours and authentic, high-quality brands, they have been driving innovation in drinks.

However, the over 50s shouldn’t be forgotten. In 2017, a quarter of the world’s population will be over the age of 50. These consumers are transforming what it means to be older in terms of lifestyle and are more demanding in their consumption needs. According to AARP, a US seniors lobby group, ‘The growing population of over 50s represents both a transformative force by itself and a net asset – a fast-growing contingent of active, productive people who are working longer and taking the economy in new directions’. ‘Midorexia’ is a label for middle-aged and older consumers who act younger than their years and thus are disrupting and challenging existing thoughts on the expectations and demands of this demographic.

Wellness and wine – How will this broad trend impact alcohol?

Most drinks markets around the world have been shaped by a greater awareness of the risks of excessive alcohol consumption and a general trend towards living healthier lifestyles. Wine Intelligence reports that 62 per cent of US regular wine drinkers and 59 per cent of Chinese imported wine drinkers agree that they ‘look for ways to enhance my overall well-being’.

This has had a profound impact on alcohol consumption habits, with some consumers switching to categories perceived to be healthier, such as wine. It’s also led to people choosing to drink less but better. Another by-product of the wellness trend is that producers have increasingly removed or excluded naturally occurring elements from drinks, with the aim of improving health benefits, such as gluten-free, lactose-free, low-alcohol or alcohol-free products.

Wine Intelligence research also shows that 29 per cent of both Chinese imported wine drinkers and US regular wine drinkers ‘buy more food and drink that excludes certain elements e.g. gluten, sugar, meat, than I used to.’

Producers have been quick to respond to this trend by launching ‘lighter’ drinks with lower alcohol levels or calories. For example, in the beer category, there’s been a proliferation of mid-strength and low-carb beers. Sapporo+ is an alcohol-free drink with all the other characteristics of beer. It’s said to suppress an increase in blood sugar levels after a meal and so may help regulate energy levels.

In the wine category there’s been an increase in lower alcohol styles such as Moscato. Once again, Australian wine exporters have taking advantage of this global trend with Moscato exports almost tripling in the last three years.

Convenience – The increasing expectation of immediacy

The demand for greater convenience has been behind several recent developments in the alcoholic drinks market. These include the introduction of new formats, such as wine in cans and on tap. The growth of mixed drinks in several regions has been partly due to their convenience, with consumers willing to pay a premium rather than having to create their own mixes.

The convenience trend also includes the desire for making life and transactions quicker, seamless and low-stress. This has resulted in significant growth in online sales, both via supermarkets and specific e-retailers, which allow consumers to order drinks quickly and easily direct to their door.

Businesses are embracing improving technology to instigate real change in the way consumers shop.

Consumers have an increasing expectation of immediacy. Fast isn’t good enough anymore, they want things instantly. Coldwell Banker Commercial reported that 53 per cent of US customers are more likely to make an online purchase if they offer same-day delivery. Instant delivery in the food sector has become so normalised that consumers are now expecting the same from the drinks sector.

The blurring of category lines in drinks markets

Another notable trend is the blurring of drinks categories. In order to offer something more creative and unusual, businesses are breaking traditional boundaries by combining, merging and blending products and categories. Wine Intelligence research shows that 40 per cent of wine drinkers in China consider product and category mergers to be compelling.

One notable trend is that alcohol is being combined with non-alcoholic food products to deliver familiar flavours through a new medium. Furthermore, different types of alcohol are being blended together to continue the development of new cross-category drinks. The beer, wine and spirits categories are becoming even more blurred as businesses increasingly combine one, two or all three together to create new products.

Recent examples of this have been ‘speers’ (spirit beers) and ‘spiders’ (spirit ciders).

Spirit beers have captured the minds of young millennials, appealing to their experimental attitude towards innovative flavour combinations. For this demographic, beer has become strongly associated with ‘something that my dad drinks’. As a result, beer producers have followed the lead of the cider category. For example, over the past few years flavoured ciders such as blackcurrant, kiwi fruit, lime and toffee apple have become popular among young UK consumers. Ciders have reinvented themselves from being a farmer’s drink to a trendy, fun alcoholic beverage aimed at the younger consumer.

One consequence of ‘category blur’ or ‘fusion’ has been reduced loyalty on the part of consumers who are showing an increasing willingness to switch categories if another appears more dynamic or fashionable. This has led to migrations not only within spirits, such as from vodka to premium gin, but also in some cases between broader categories, such as from cider to Prosecco or spirits to craft beer.


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This content is restricted to wine exporters and levy-payers. Some reports are available for purchase to non-levy payers/exporters.