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Consumers reluctant to try lower-alcohol wines

Published:  01 June, 2012

The lower-alcohol wine category will reach a natural cap due to consumer reluctance to try lighter style products, new research has indicated.

Wine Intelligence has found 10 million people - or 36% of regular wine drinkers in the UK - won't buy lower-alcohol wines.

While chief operating officer Richard Halstead predicted "there's going to be a market for lower alcohol wine" with around 13 million - or 45% of regular wine drinkers - currently buying them and a further five million saying they might try them, he said "consumers prefer the taste of higher alcohol wines".

Speaking during a Wine Intelligence seminar at the LIWF called The Future of Wine in 60 Minutes, Halstead added that retailers were "interested in giving shelf space to low alcohol products" and predicted they will devote around 10% of shelf space to create "new low alcohol zones".

The sub-11% abv wine category will grow to account for 6% to 8% of the off-trade by volume, he forecast.

Sainsbury's has committed to doubling sales of lower-alcohol wines of up to 10.5% abv by 2020, according to BWS head Andy Phelps. Speaking at the WI seminar, Phelps said the category grew by 14% last year. "Consumers do want lighter styles," he said, and rely on "clear on pack labelling". He added that the retailer was looking at reducing the abv of its own-label wine.

A blind taste test of lower-alcohol wines from the major multiples found the trade favours whites and rosés above reds. Conducted by Lynne Whitaker, founder of specialist marketing and research agency Winebrand, the Lighter Style Wines Taste Test "generated a huge amount of interest from all sectors of the trade", with 170 people taking part in the survey at the LIWF, Whitaker said.

"I think many were pleasantly surprised by the drinkability of some of the lower-alcohol wines now on sale in UK supermarkets - particularly the whites and rosés," she added. "There was a general consensus that producing palatable low alcohol red wines is more difficult, and the acceptance level for the reds was lower."