COVID-19 National

Pandemic Fuels Wine Sales At Grocery, Convenience Stores

Catalina Koupon pandemic wine sales

Having closely tracked the impact of COVID-19 on buying behavior in grocery and drug stores since mid-February, shopper intelligence company Catalina has compared sales data with its partner Koupon, a promotion solution provider for small format retail, to gain a more holistic understanding of the pandemic’s impact on cross-channel consumer purchases. While wine, beer and spirits have each experienced a boost in sales during the pandemic across grocery, drug and c-store channels, the wine category has seen particularly strong sales growth.


Wine category sees strong gains across the board

Catalina’s shopping data reveals a significant increase in wine sales for the 10-week period beginning Feb. 23 through May 2, across grocery and drug channels, when sheltering in place became more common vs. the same period a year ago:

  • Wine total dollar sales increased by 38 percent, with unit sales up by 32 percent;
  • The number of wine buyers increased by 16 percent;
  • Dollars spent per wine buyer were up 15 percent—from $62.74 to $71.94 (for the total 10-week period);
  • Units purchased per wine buyer were up 10 percent—from 6.3 to 6.9 (for the total 10-week period);
  • 46 percent of wine buyers made a repeat purchase (2+ trips during the 10-week period) vs. 36 percent a year ago;
  • In 2020, 45 percent of trips included purchases of two or more bottles of wine, compared to 36 percent of trips in 2019;
  • 3+ bottles were purchased this year on 19 percent of trips, compared to 14 percent of trips last year; and
  • 6+ bottles were purchased this year on 7.3 percent of trips, compared to 5.8 percent of trips last year.

Many new buyers have entered the category as well, and they are making repeat purchases.

New category buyers in grocery & drug (they didn’t buy the category in the previous 52 weeks):
% new buyers % new buyers repeating
Wine – COVID period (10 weeks) +13% +21%
Wine – same period year ago +11% +15%
Beer – COVID period (10 weeks) +10% +21%
Beer – same period year ago +10% +16%
Spirits – COVID period (10 weeks) +18% +19%
Spirits – same period year ago +16% +13%

Across alcoholic beverages, wine has seen the greatest overall increase compared to the pre-COVID period:

Total dollar sales vs. a year ago (grocery/drug):
6 weeks pre-COVID 10-Week COVID period Change
Wine +4% +38% +34 pts
Beer +9% +35% +26 pts
Spirits +10% +42% +32 pts

According to Koupon, as virtual happy hours have become more popular, there has been a clear shift toward c-store visits later in the day, and a corresponding increase in the sales of adult beverages. In the C-store channel, for the same 10-week period vs. year ago:

  • Wine total dollar sales were up 9 percent, beer was up 6 percent and spirits up 24 percent;
  • 32 percent of wine buyers were new to the category within c-store, and 17 percent of these first-time buyers have made a repeat purchase; and
  • For consumers buying both before and during the crisis, wine basket size was up 4 percent, beer up 11 percent and spirits up 6 percent.


Wine industry perspectives

“During times of crisis, new behaviors and habits emerge for some consumers while others return to the familiar,” said Stephanie Gallo, chief marketing officer for E. & J. Gallo. “The rise of virtual observances—happy hours, baby showers, birthdays and even weddings—means consumers are using technology in new ways while enjoying wine and spirits as a part of their connections. Several of our wineries are now engaging consumers through weekly virtual happy hours with winemakers and cooking demonstrations with chefs.”

Jeff Dubiel, chief marketing officer of The Wine Group, said, “During the initial panic-buy period, the wine category saw the same consumer pantry-loading behaviors as other categories like paper towels and shelf-stable goods. As we have seen with previous crises, the increased purchase and consumption continued to hold following the initial wave of pantry-loading as consumers adapted to sheltering in place. Americans are resilient, and we have seen and heard wine enthusiasts finding inventive news ways, such as virtual happy hours and wine tastings—to enjoy their favorite beverages with friends and family.”


Adapting for a new normal

For the week ending May 3, convenience store sales had returned to year-over-year growth levels across the majority of in-store categories. As more states begin to reopen and consumers adjust to a new normal, consumer goods producers, including the wine category, will continue to adapt.

“We have seen shifts in consumer behavior where larger indulgences like vacations are being replaced with small moments of joy and reward, such as a nice glass of wine at the end of the day. Consumers are moving toward leading brands that are comfortable and familiar,” Dubiel said. “The way consumers interact, shop and spend their time has morphed into a more digital experience, so our ability to quickly adjust our engagement during the pandemic has been important. As an example, when the Coachella music festival was postponed, Cupcake Vineyards provided a ‘Couchella’ live stream event—and a chance to win Coachella tickets for the rescheduled event in October.”

Gallo explained, “Maintaining a sense of community matters more now than ever, and people are looking for ways to discover new ways to fill their time at home…”

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