With the festive season around the corner, Rachel Badham takes a dive into this year’s biggest Christmas trends for retailers
Sandra Brunet, marketing director for Campari Group UK, says: “Christmas, when done well, can be the most lucrative period of the year for retailers; in December 2021, there was a 38% increase in spending on alcohol compared to a typical month.”
With 2022 marking the first Christmas free of Covid restrictions since the beginning of the pandemic, Brunet expects it to be a “prime opportunity” for the drinks industry. And as the festive season approaches, now is the time for retailers to consider their Christmas offerings.
COST OF CHRISTMAS
As consumers contend with the cost of living crisis, Co-op buying manager for wine & spirits Joseph Turner expects that those looking for a festive beverage will favour the off-trade.
“It’s expected more people will opt to dine in and drink at home in the second half of the year as consumers feel the increased pressure caused by the rise in cost of living,” he says.
“In a similar trend to that seen during the lockdown periods, we expect to see customers trade up in their purchases of wine and spirits this Christmas to replicate that dining-out experience and instead save money by buying a great bottle of wine to enjoy at home.”
Charles Overin, head of marketing & insights for Kingsland Drinks, explains that the cost of living crisis needn’t be a cause of concern for retailers, who can take it as an opportunity to offer “great-value drinks for festive evenings in the home”.
“It’s important to offer a range of wines to suit all budgets, and to cater for everyday occasions as well as premium options. We anticipate there may be more socialising in the home this Christmas, so value and quality are the order of the day,” says Overin.
Despite the popularity of premium, Turner recommends that retailers continue to offer an affordable range: “Ensuring we offer great value for money has never been more important – whether it’s an entry price-point offer, a key branded signpost wine or a festive trade-up such as a Rhône blend to pair with the Christmas dinner.”
Following the home cocktail boom and wave of new flavours, it seems that spirits might be taking over from sparkling wine as the drink of the season. James Stocker, marketing director of Halewood Artisanal Spirits, says last Christmas saw a “huge spike” in flavoured spirits sales, with flavoured vodka being the strongest area of growth.
“Cream liqueurs also saw massive growth last year, which is something we believe we’ll see again this Christmas. Cream liqueurs are incredibly versatile, and can be enjoyed simply over ice or for creating delicious, luxurious cocktails”, says Stocker.
Spirits are also becoming top choices for gifting. “Sixty per cent of consumers said they gifted spirits in the last year, and 71% of those occasions were over the Christmas period,” highlights Campari’s Brunet.
However, sparkling wine remains a Christmas favourite amid the rise of spirits, with last year’s sales showing upward growth in the category.
“Last year, sparkling wine sales grew 22% with Brits spending £15.5 million on fizz during the festive season”, says Brunet. “Pre-pandemic, one in every four bottles of Prosecco in the UK off-trade was sold during the eight-week run-up to Christmas.”
Jack Merrylees, head of content, brand and PR at Majestic, also believes that fizz will continue to be a “big winner” this Christmas.
“English sparkling is edging its way into the national Christmas consciousness as a bottle of choice to kick off the festivities. South African fizz and Spanish options have also been in strong growth this year – particularly as a great-value option,” he says.
And as the nation’s love affair with home cocktails continues, spirits and sparkling might just be the perfect pairing. To encourage trade-up, Brunet advises retailers to provide consumer guidance on how to “elevate sparkling wines” by combining traditional favourites such as Prosecco with spirits.
THE SEASON FOR SUSTAINABILITY
While Christmas and consumption are almost synonymous, shoppers are no longer compromising on sustainability. With the NielsenIQ February 2022 Homescan Survey finding that 60% of consumers believe it is important to buy sustainably made groceries, brands and retailers must be mindful to keep thinking sustainably amid the festivities.
o-op’s Turner notes that sustainability has many guises across drinks products, and says that the retailer offers a range of drinks, from those that are vegan to those made by B Corp or carbon-negative producers. Co-op also intends to expand its range of sustainably led drinks prior to Christmas.
“Just ahead of December this year, we’re adding new Fairtrade and low and no-alcohol wine lines,” he says.
Sustainable packaging alternatives are also proving a hit among consumers, with Kingsland’s Overin explaining the perks of bag-in-box for the Christmas season: “New consumers that came into the bag-in-box category realised the benefits in terms of convenience, freshness and quality, and a good proportion of these consumers are likely to remain in the category.
“It’s a great format to have in the house over Christmas – bag-in-box wines stay fresh for four weeks so can cover the whole festive period, and mean shoppers have plenty of wine in for dinners and group gatherings.”
COUNTING THE DAYS
Drinks advent calendars offer a way for brands to introduce consumers to their range while appealing to both gift givers and alcohol enthusiasts alike.
The Whisky Exchange’s 25 Spirits for 25 Days advent calendar features a selection of 3cl spirits bottles, ranging from whisky and rum to liqueurs. The retailer notes that advent calendars invite consumers to step out of their comfort zone, while encouraging customers to return for more.
Halewood’s Stocker says the brand offers a range of advent calendars, which include “12 and 24 gins of Christmas from our Whitley Neill, JJ Whitley and Berkshire Botanical ranges, as well as 12 and 24 rums of Christmas, which offer our full Dead Man’s Fingers rum range”.
He adds: “Not only do these make fantastic gifts, but they work well to encourage new shoppers into the category, and ultimately provide the opportunity to upsell to the full-size bottle format.”
Stepping away from spirits, Cornish company Healeys Cyder has created a Rattler Cyder advent calendar containing 12 x 50cl bottles from the Rattler range. With packaging being a key component of drinks advent calendars, the producer collaborated with Smurfit Kappa UK to create specialist packaging that would support the weight of the bottles.
Keeping convenience for both customers and the Healeys team in mind, the box was designed with a tab lid that requires no additional packaging material to seal.