The last two months of the year are traditionally a season of increased sales for wine and total alcohol in general, as consumers rush to purchase holiday beverages. For 2021, it is predicted that holiday alcohol sales will surpass those of 2020, according to a new NielsenIQ.com report. And wine and Ready-to-Drink (RTD) wine cocktails/seltzers make up a large portion of those sales.
“Of total alcohol buyers,” reports Kaleigh Theriault, an analyst and client manager with NielsenIQ, “70% are expected to purchase some form of Wine (Table, Sparkling, RTD, Dessert, etc.), which is slightly higher than what we see for Beer/FMB/Cider and Spirits.”
Given that $4.8 billion dollars were spent on total alcohol purchases in the US during last November and December when not as many restaurants were open, the year-end revenue for 2021 is expected to exceed that. Indeed, this year 62% of consumers said they would be visiting On-Premise establishments (restaurants, bars, etc.) during the 2021 holidays. Combining that number with Off-Premise purchases (grocery stores, wine shops, etc.) and direct to consumer (DTC) shipments from wineries, the 2021 holiday season could be quite merry.
Already wine sales during the 2021 Thanksgiving holidays outperformed those of 2020. This was especially the case for sparkling wine volume sales (+3.5%) and white wine (+1.7%). Over Christmas and New Year’s these numbers are expected to increase, because higher-priced premium wines and French champagne are 2.4 times more likely to be purchased during the holiday season.
The Alcohol RTD Category Is Bringing in New Consumers
Interestingly, the RTD (Ready to Drink) category for all alcohol is continuing to grow, mainly due to an increase in new consumers who are attracted by the convenience of finding ready-made cocktails. Currently, according to a recent NielsonIQ RTD report, 47% of alcohol buyers are purchasing some form of ready to drink beverage. Furthermore, the RTD consumer is more likely to switch back and forth between wine and spirits RTD.
“As the lines blur between Wine-based, Spirits-based, and Malt-based products, especially in the ready to drink space, the overlap in buyers has risen,” states Theriault. “We will likely see this number to continue to increase as the lines are further blurred with new product innovation in the RTD space.”
Some of the innovation has to do with adding unique and exotic ingredients to the alcohol base. Adding probiotics, natural flavors, superfoods, and even Oreos, as with the new Barefoot Oreo brand, is becoming more common. (Intriguingly this brand sold out nearly immediately after the launch.) Also, crafting the RTD beverage to be low-sugar, low calorie, low carb, and/or low-alcohol is also very appealing to certain consumer segments. This type of innovation is attracting new consumers to the RTD category.
Most Popular Wine RTD Brands in the US Market
In terms of popularity, there are certain Wine RTD brands that seem to dominate the market. “The top 5 Wine-based RTD brands based on dollar sales for the past 52 weeks are: Buzzballz Cocktails, Barefoot wine cocktails/seltzers, Daily’s Cocktail, Lamarca, and Sutter Home wine cocktails/seltzer,” reports Theirault. “These five brands account for 56% of total Wine RTD sales.”
However, compared to spirits and malt-based RTDs, Wine RTD performance seems to be lagging a little bit. “Segments within Wine RTDs are more developed as some of the products are smaller sized packaging formats (ex. table wine or sparkling wine in a 4pk, 187ml),” explains Theriault. “This results in slower growth for Wine RTDs, but a greater number of overall buyers. Buyers that are new to Wine RTDs tend to be heavier purchasers of total RTDs, but spend fewer of their dollars on wine RTDs.”
This suggests that the wine industry should consider upping its innovation in Wine RTDs, in order to stay fresh and relevant with the many new consumers entering this alcohol category.