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Wines, beers and spirits in supermarkets in 2023: an overview

Each year, Dry January gathers more and more followers and seems to embody a underlying trend in the alcoholic beverage sector. Sales of these beverages are declining, a market trend driven by the fact that Gen Z (those under 25) is much less interested in them than previous generations.

Last week, Les Ateliers du Vin took place, hosted by Olivier Dauvers, amidst declining results in the sector. How about taking a tour of the wine, beer, and spirits aisles and the ongoing changes?


Significant Disparities Between Aisles


In general, IRI noted a strong impact on sales in large-scale retailing due to consumers returning to restaurants. A noticeable decline that is exacerbated by supply chain tensions and logistical difficulties. But looking closer, the three alcoholic beverage aisles don't experience the same reality.


Beer maintains its strong performance and seriously competes with wine in the hearts of the French, according to the 2023 SoWine/Dynata barometer. As always, it appears less complex and more accessible to younger generations than wine or spirits. This category continues to grow, with the offer diversifying and premiumising, much to the delight of consumers who prefer local and craft beers. We discussed this in a dedicated article in 2021.


Wine, on the other hand, is struggling, showing a decline in volume and value for the past 8 years. The most affected category is red wines, particularly Bordeaux. The aisle as a whole struggles to resonate with young consumers, as evidenced by market trends in the United States in recent years. Even on this large market, which is far less mature than France or its European neighbors, the only growing segment is the over 60s. While premiumisation is also evident, engagement is lower, and buyers are not renewing. In France, wine is steadily losing market share among 18-35 year olds, especially in large-scale retailing.


The same holds for spirits, although they benefit from the mixology trend. According to the SOWINE barometer, while more French people are interested in this universe, purchases of these products remain mostly occasional, with an average basket often below €20. Rum remains the favorite, followed by whiskey and vodka. These heavyweights seem unshakeable but still experience a slight decline. Volume sales have decreased slightly each year since 2014, but are offset by an increase in value.


A Decline in Alcohol Consumption in Historical Markets

This decline in sales is mainly linked to a global reduction in consumption. Since 1960, alcohol consumption has been divided by 3 in France, a trend that has accelerated in recent years. While the figures may not be exactly the same, the trend is similar in historical markets, as well as newer ones (United States, Japan...). So much so that the Japanese government recently launched a campaign to revive consumption among the youth!


The global Covid pandemic has accelerated this phenomenon by depriving young people of out-of-home socialization and making them more sensitive than ever to their personal health. We've witnessed a rise in alternatives containing little or no alcohol, offering similar mouthfeel sensations. Whether it's for the attributed health benefits of eliminating alcohol, the low associated calories, or simply their taste, they are gaining popularity. This "NoLo" family, which was previously anecdotal, is starting to gain traction, especially in beers and spirits. The range of alcoholic beverages is becoming more varied... and of higher quality. As the adage "drink less but better" becomes ingrained in the collective imagination, premium products are doing the same on the shelves of major retailers. Consumers are increasingly fond of these types of references, regardless of their age group.


This quest is compounded by considerations and anxieties related to current environmental issues. Wine may be less engaging, but it attracts more when it offers sustainable or responsible certification. Buyers are taking more time to look into and analyze the origin and production methods. From the Organic Agriculture label to Terra Vitis, to High Environmental Value, they are added value not to be underestimated, as health concerns and environmental awareness go hand in hand. According to Toutlevin's Vinometer study, consumption of organic wines continues to increase in France. Thus, we are the country with the highest proportion of regular consumers (36%). A category that gained 9 points between 2015 and 2021.


In summary, the wine, beer, and spirits aisles have never been as diverse and qualitative, but societal and economic circumstances are affecting them. And the upcoming price hikes are not likely to improve this situation. IRI warns of the impact of inflation, which will deal another blow to these aisles. After a disappointing 2022 and a sharp decline since the beginning of 2023, a bleak year is looming. An alarming observation, but fortunately there are good news and ideas to revive these beautiful aisles! Here are some suggestions.


Paths to Re-Enchant Your Alcoholic Beverage Aisles


In light of this redefinition of consumption patterns, here are some actions to change the way these products are marketed.


Reducing the range, in other words, removing references from shelves, is a lever that is still too rarely used. This can help to make the product more easily understood by consumers, while reducing the cost of running these greedy sections.

This should go hand in hand with the introduction or strengthening of "NoLo" alcohol references, as well as more responsible products, with appropriate labelling to avoid them getting lost in the back of the shelf.


Finally, breaking out of the "non-experience" for customers seems critical. In other words, to liven up, dramatise and even bring a touch of fun to aisles that have been made anxiety-provoking by a plethora of complex products on offer. Accompanying the consumer whenever possible with advice, whether human or digital, to offer them a fast, efficient shopping experience that is in tune with their desires.

The challenge is twofold, especially for the Wine & Champagne aisle! First, getting (re)visits to the aisle, then maximizing those visits.

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