As we approach the run-up to the festive season, Drinks Retailing explores the key trends in wine, spirits and RTDs shaping this year’s peak sales period

1. Home entertaining

At-home cocktail making and online inspiration such as masterclasses will be key to driving incremental trade-up within premium spirits and wine over the festive period, according to Pernod Ricard UK. Research conducted by the Jameson owner reveals two out of three adult consumers who made cocktails at home during lockdown will continue to do so – and more than half of adult consumers drank cocktails at home in the six months to March this year. Not only that, 53% of homes now own a cocktail shaker.

At Halewood Artisanal Spirits, marketing director James Stocker outlines key ways retailers can make the most of the at-home cocktails trend. “Space permitting, inspire customers with a dedicated Christmas display to help encourage additional purchases. This can include creative cocktail/serve suggestions with the ingredients all clearly grouped together, to help tap into the festive big night in and home entertaining opportunities.” 

2. Fizz forward

All things fizz will, of course, be on the cards and rosé Prosecco is likely to be a top seller as it’s the first full Christmas since it became legal in the UK in November 2020, says Jo Taylorson, head of marketing and product management at Kingsland Drinks. “Our partner producer, Corte Molino, has got off to a great start in the UK, with bottles flying off Co-op shelves, so we’re well prepared for the festive season as it’s such an affordable, celebratory, fun wine.”

Taylorson also highlights Crémant de Loire, which she says has seen growth in recent years as an “excellent value alternative to Champagne”.

That’s not to say the grande dame of fizz is out of fashion. Charline Drappier, head of marketing at Champagne Drappier, says that for Champagne, the Christmas season “during Covid was actually surprisingly successful”.

She adds: “Champagne has the luck to be both a Christmas present and a component of a Christmas meal. It seems that in 2020, people were keen on spending more on both,” a trend she hopes will continue this year.

Pascal Prudhomme, Champagne Castelnau managing director, adds that “feast and pleasure” are linked to Champagne and points to cuvées released this year: Origine Solera, the third edition of Hors Categorie and the 2007 vintage of Castelnau Blanc de Blancs.

3. More celebrations

Our experts believe that this year will be more promising and bigger than ever, as hopefully we can have the celebratory family Christmas that wasn’t possible in 2020.

“With many feeling like they missed out last year, we expect there to be an increase in smaller, everyday celebrations in the run-up to the big day, with wine and sparkling playing a key role,” says Tom Smith, marketing director, Europe, at Accolade Wines. He says Christmas day will see a greater emphasis on celebrating and treating. “For some, that means trading up to premium options, while for others it may be an extra bottle of their everyday favourite, so it’s important to remember tiering and pushing big brands alongside premium options.” 

4. Prime for premium

It’s no secret that Christmas is prime time for premium products and Continental Wine & Food marketing assistant Caitlin Barker says premium spirits help to drive footfall as shoppers look to trade up to make Christmas and New Year that little bit more special. She highlights CWF’s Perfetto Italian gin range that also fits into the rising “Italian trend”.

The team at Ian Macleod Distillers also cites premium gin. UK managing director Neil Boyd says it’s no surprise that this year consumers will want to treat themselves and their loved ones more than ever during the festive season. “We’re expecting to see lots of family reunions, generous gifting, and perfect occasions to enjoy premium drinks such as gin and whisky.

“On gin sales specifically, we see sales of super-premium climb by 58% during the festive season, which is more than double the overall gin category.”

Chris Shead, off-trade channel director at Pernod Ricard, adds that the off-trade is likely to retain an inflated share of the total BWS market this year. He says the Christmas season will start earlier, as friends and family make up for lost time.

“Consumers upskilled during lockdown. They tried more cocktails at home, experimented with new flavours, and treated themselves to the new product or flavours from their favourite brands. We’re supporting retailers to capitalise on the opportunity this presents with a wide range of premium options.”