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Still wine swipes the Christmas sales crown

Published:  11 January, 2018

Still wine has emerged as the surprising winner of the wine aisle across the all-important Christmas season, with sales finally back in growth and outperforming Prosecco for the first time in several years.

Following a few years of lacklustre festive performances, still wine sales in the off-trade were up 5.7%, adding £26.3 million to the category, to £492.3 million in the four weeks to December 30, 2017, according to exclusive IRI data.

The impressive growth came on the back of consumers seemingly returning to still wine, with volume up 3.1%, which translates to a total of 2.7 million more bottles flying off retailer’s shelves in the same period compared with the previous year.

However, the volume behind value growth also suggests consumers are spending more per bottle in line with the trend for trading up, which has become apparent across the drinks industry in recent years.

The flow of still wine across Christmas saw the sub-sector outperform Prosecco for the first time in many years as sales of the darling of sparkling slowed down, up just up 3.1% – which translates to £2.7 million – to £90.4 million.

And with volume almost stagnant - a total of 3,171 fewer bottles of the Italian fizz were picked up by Christmas shoppers – the data suggests that Prosecco may have “had its time in the sun” following years of booming sales, says IRI business unit director Toby Magill.

A welcome comeback

“Prosecco had an amazing time last year but it is time for still to have a comeback and it is clear from the Christmas data that it is no longer posing the same competition to still wine as it did in the past couple of years,” says Magill, adding with “other” sparkling, including Champagne, in decline across the period, still wine was likely to have benefited from previous Prosecco drinkers going back to still with the desire for red, white and rosé still there.

“Other” sparkling wine sales, excluding Prosecco, dropped 6.2%, or £6.1 million, to £92.2 million, on volumes down 11.1% – a total of just over one million fewer bottles sold compared with the same period last year, which confirms consumers aren’t ditching Prosecco in favour of other bubbles.

The poor performance of “other” sparkling resulted in a 1.8% (£3.4 million) drop in sales of total sparkling wine to £182.6 million, with volume down 4.7% (one million bottles). Overall fizz sales were likely to not just have been affected by a re-ignited thirst for still wine, but also by the runaway success of gin, says Magill.

“With the economy not great and consumers still working to a budget, shoppers may opt for just one ‘special’ drink with some likely to have chosen gin for cocktails or traditional G&T over a bottle of bubbles this festive season,” he said.

Gin was hailed as the runaway success of the last-minute Christmas booze run, with shoppers buying a huge 45% more in the week before the big day than 2016 (IRI).

In the week to Saturday December 23, consumers spent £36 million on gin, putting it far ahead of other popular categories. The £36 million spent on gin equates to 2.2 million bottles – 636,000 more than 2016.