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Uncorked: Bringing on the bad times?

Published:  18 January, 2007

There was a pause during the Waste & Resources Action Programme (WRAP) seminar at the wine trade fair last week when Stewart Blunt of market researchers AC Nielsen stated that their latest MATs (moving annual totals) showed that growth in off-trade wine sales had plateaued in the first half of the year. For many of us - deep in waste minimisation mode - it took a moment for the penny to drop.

There was a near-imperceptible intake of breath when Stewart's message finally sank in.

Well, why should we be surprised? Anecdotally, we have been aware of an apparent slow down in wine consumption for some months.

The conventional wisdom has been that the hitherto inexorable growth has been down to existing wine drinkers, particularly regular wine drinkers, consuming more.

Despite what Wine Intelligence says about the under-30s (see News - Harpers 26th may 2006), younger drinkers don't really come into wine until they start settling down'.

Existing consumers, however regularly they consume wine, can only drink so much, and maybe that limit has now been reached.

Maybe the sector is about to hit the buffers. Maybe the bubble has burst.

We've got the World Cup starting in a couple of weeks, so we know consumers will be drinking copious amounts of alcohol for about four weeks.

But then what? In a flat, or even contracting, market we need our action men to think outside the 75ml bottle or beyond the price point.

It could be war.

Christian Davis