Christmas drinks trends - part 2

With the festive season around the corner, Rachel Badham takes a dive into this year’s biggest Christmas trends for retailers

GLORIOUS GIFTING

With a separate department dedicated to gifting, Virgin Wines found that the majority of drinks-related gifts sold over Christmas were specially created gift sets, with the “best-selling spirit gift for 2021 being a gin-filled snow globe”. 

As Christmas draws closer, the retailer recommends offering a range of options across BWS to cater to every consumer. 

“All our gifts include optional free gift messaging. They cover wines, spirits and beers, including classic wine duos, trios and single gift boxed wines,” it says. “We also have more bespoke items, such as wine with flowers as well as a variety of hampers.” 

Having recently launched a personalisation service, Virgin Wines has spotted a market for those looking to add a customised touch to Christmas drinks gifts. 

Stephen Duckett, founder of Hundred Hills wine, agrees that personalisation is the way to go when it comes to gifting: “Beautifully presented gift boxes are becoming popular among English wineries, often complete with postcards to make Christmas gifts that bit more personalised.” 

However, gifting doesn’t always mean creating special packages. Halewood’s Stocker believes that enticing consumers in search of gifts begins with eye-catching packaging. “In addition to the traditional gifting formats, we saw a huge rise in popularity of stand-out bottle designs last Christmas.” 

Mentioning the success of the JJ Whitley vodka range, Stocker suggests that individual bottles can offer a more “accessibly priced gifting option” as value-led consumers opt for budget-friendly alternatives to gift packs.

ALL THINGS IN MODERATION

“Half of all UK adults are looking to cut down their alcohol consumption, so when it comes to important events such as Christmas, the demand for alcohol-free or low-alcohol drinks that satisfy the desire to celebrate with something that feels special has significantly increased,” says Laura Willoughby, co-founder of mindful drinking organisation Club Soda. 

“There is now an alcohol-free equivalent for everything you could want this Christmas – whisky, amaretto, stout, even Irish cream – so there is no need to feel like you are compromising with non-alcoholic options,” she adds. 

NielsenIQ data for the 12 months ending June 11 found low/no sales were up 37% compared to pre-pandemic purchasing. No longer reserved for Dry January, the low/no category is taking the festive season by storm. Co-op’s Turner says the retailer has seen “low/no sales double in December”, with the trend expected to continue this year. 

Sunny Mirpuri, sales director for wholesale & convenience at Budweiser Brewing Group, says that last Christmas, the company saw a “21% rise in sales of low and no-alcohol beers”. 

“Our data shows that low/no products gain a greater share of the category at times of the year where social gatherings are more prevalent, such as Christmas,” he says. “We’ve also seen low/no consumption increase at occasions where alcoholic drinks are consumed, demonstrating the opportunity for retailers catering for consumers looking for low/no products ahead of Christmas parties.” 

While alcohol-free and reduced-alcohol spirits continue to have a hold on the low/no category according to NielsenIQ, Turner says that it’s worth keeping low/no wine in mind this Christmas. 

“We are seeing continued growth in the low/no category and with demand high, we expect to see a similar sales performance to previous years,” he says. “I’m keen to see how the premiumisation of the low/ no wine category could impact growth, as it has seen success in both beer and spirits.” 

To make the most of the low/no opportunity, Willoughby says that retailer knowledge is key. 

“Whatever products you choose to stock, you need to be able to genuinely advocate for them. Having knowledge and personal recommendations is invaluable to the customer, giving them confidence in the purchases they are making.” 

Willoughby also recommends retailers integrate their range of alcoholic and low/no products: “Include both alcohol and alcohol-free options in the same display so the non-alcoholic product simply becomes an alternate offering.” 

FESTIVE FAVOURITES

For Kingsland’s Overin, Christmas is all about balancing traditional options with new favourites: “Offer different varieties, a range of price points, and a choice of formats. Stock the bestsellers while giving space to emerging categories such as rosé Prosecco and RTDs.” 

As 2022 marks a return to normality, Majestic’s Merrylees suggests that Christmas classics will make a comeback. 

“This will be the time of rediscovering all those Christmas rituals,” he says. “For our customers, that means office parties, the shared special extras, the traditional options. So we believe ports, sherries, pudding wines and, in particular, magnums will all have a big Christmas 2022 after the disruption of recent times.” 

Majestic also expects “retro choices”, such as mulled wine and sherry, to come back into fashion as consumers seek a taste of festive nostalgia. With Majestic predicting that beloved classics are likely to be at the top of consumers’ shopping lists, it seems that gin will stand its ground despite the rise of vodka. 

For Halewood, dessert-inspired gin is expected to make waves this Christmas, with Whitley Neill’s Mince Pie gin marking the latest flavoured variant. “Our Peach and Pineapple gin launches got good traction this summer, so we’re confident that our Mince Pie gin will perform well,” says James Stocker. 

In the wine world, Virgin Wines has noticed that Australian wines are “always the most popular” options during the Christmas season, closely followed by France. “This is likely a combination of people enjoying New World Sauvignon Blanc – the most popular grape variety with customers at Christmas 2021 – and Old World Syrah from France – the second most popular grape,” says the retailer. 

“To back this up further, Christmas 2021’s most popular wine style was full-bodied reds, followed by dry, crisp whites.” 

Kingland’s Overin also mentions French wine as a consumer favourite over the Christmas period, with “classic regions such as Bordeaux, Chablis and Champagne” performing particularly well. 

However, he also suggests that retailers stock a selection of RTDs as well as traditional drinks options. “Canned alcoholic drinks are perfect for this time of year, especially among younger generations who prefer a casual, accessible, affordable and fun drink. They’re portable, can be consumed directly from the can, and can be disposed of and recycled easily.”

LESS IS MORE

In a sea of festive retail offerings, Co-op’s Turner suggests that streamlining the Christmas offering is the best way to engage overwhelmed consumers. 

“With the World Cup taking place so close to Christmas this year, there’s a risk it could result in a cluttered retail offer. However, our focus remains on delivering a clear, concise and simple offer,” he adds. 

Turner also recommends a carefully considered merchandising plan to guide Christmas shoppers. 

“We know that, for customers looking for a bit of inspiration at a time of celebration and sharing, having the right gentle trade-ups and recommendations featured in-store will go a long way in encouraging trial and engagement.” 

Campari’s Brunet agrees, saying retailers should “consider eye-catching and impactful festive displays for core product lines”. She also suggests presenting pairable products together as part of in-store displays to encourage customers to trade up. 

Majestic’s Merrylees emphasises that Christmas campaigns needn’t be complicated, and suggests looking to the past for inspiration: “This Christmas, our campaign will be all about reconnecting our customers with the wines, beers and spirits they’ve loved from years gone past – or to help them find some new favourites.”

 

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