How do consumers feel about the state of the nation? And how is this affecting their drinking habits? Which supermarkets are most popular for which styles of drinks and why? Drinks Retailing has once again partnered with research and insights specialist Ipsos to create a comprehensive view of buyer trends

CHANGING HABITS

  • 29% of people surveyed said they have been buying less alcohol than they did a year ago
  • 16% of people said they have been buying more alcohol than they did a year ago
  • 66% claim to drink alcohol at least weekly at home 
  • 29% of in-home drinkers claim to drink less alcohol at home than they did a year ago

In terms of habits around drinking alcohol, “drinking alcohol socially, with family and friends” and being “conscious of my health and moderating what I drink” garner top levels of agreement. However, over a third agree they “use it as a coping mechanism to deal with stress” (41%) and/or “occasionally binge-drink alcohol” (38%). 

Some 29% of in-store purchasers claim to be aware of and understand what alcohol duty reform is about. A third (33%) anticipate some or a significant impact on their purchasing, with 38% of these anticipating reducing the quantity of alcohol they purchase as a result. 

UNDERSTANDING CONCERNS 

Cost of living pressure appears to be easing for some – 39% claim their financial situation has got worse or they expect it will get worse in the 12 months following the survey (compared to 61% claiming the same in Oct ’22). 

Among those who feel they’re in a worsening financial position, we saw a shift from those saying they’ll use “less heating, electricity, and water” (down to 56% from 67% in Oct ’22) to “cutting back on everyday luxuries, such as alcohol and treats” and “spending less on socialising” now topping the actions they may consider taking to address their financial concerns (with 57% selecting one or both of these). 

As we saw in Oct ’22, when it comes to alcohol consumption, those who expect their fi nancial situation to get worse are more likely to claim they’ll drink less alcohol at home in the next year (32%), than those who feel their fi nancial situation will stay the same (21%). 

IN-STORE PURCHASING HABITS 

Overall, claimed levels of in-store alcohol (or non-alcoholic alternative) purchasing in the three-month period showed a notable decline compared to Oct ’22 (from 84% to 76% year on year), however low/no alcohol wine noted an increase (up from 10% to 12% in Oct ’23). 

As seen in Oct ’22, beer, wine, and low/no alcohol are purchased most frequently, while spirits are most infrequently bought. Looking at types of stores – beer, cider, and wines are most likely to be bought at a supermarket. Meanwhile, low/no alcohol, sparkling wine/Champagne purchasers are more likely than purchasers of other categories to buy from specialist retailers. 

Across categories, the majority buy drinks alongside their grocery shopping, however a third of RTD purchasers tend to go to a separate shop, with 46% of those buying RTDs in the past three months, having bought from a convenience store – convenience is the name of the game for RTDs. 

RETAILER TRENDS 

Among those who have purchased alcoholic drinks (or low/no alternatives) in-store from a supermarket in the three-month period, Tesco has been used the most across all categories. Tesco also maintained the highest level of preference, followed by Sainsbury’s. With adjustments considering the size of the retailers*, Tesco continues to be the preferred retailer for beer buyers, while Marks & Spencer and Aldi achieve significantly higher preference among wine buyers, and Waitrose and M&S are most preferred among sparkling wine/Champagne purchasers. 

“Offering the best prices” (42%) and “being able to do the rest of my shopping there” (41%) are still top reasons when deciding on which in-store retailer to purchase from. However, “having the best value for money” (down 5% to 39%) and “having good promotions & discounts” (down 4% to 33%) are now less important in supermarket retailer choice than seen in Oct ’22. 

The following retailer and category findings are based on adjusted data*. Different categories do inspire different considerations when choosing a retailer. 

“Offering the best prices” is more important to spirits buyers (compared to those buying other categories), while “having good promotions and discounts” resonates more with beer purchasers. “Having good product descriptions” is relatively more important to sparkling wine/Champagne purchasers, as well as among those buying RTDs. 

“Having more ethical products” is more important to low/no alcohol purchasers, as well as retailers that “offer products/brands that they’re unable to find elsewhere”. Low/no alcohol buyers are also more likely to find a “clean shopping environment” and “good customer service“ as important in retailer choice. 

Cider purchasers are more likely to choose retailers who “always have what they want in stock”, while wine buyers are more likely to claim convenience to be important – “places close to home or work”, as well as places where “they can do the rest of their shopping as well”. 

“Easy to navigate aisles and shelves” are also relatively more important in retailer choice among wine purchasers. 

BEER 

Relatively, the three most preferred supermarket retailers for beer buyers were Tesco, Lidl and Morrisons – this is a change from the previous year when Co-op and Asda were in the top three along with Tesco. Compared to other categories, when deciding the in-store retailer for beer, the most important factors are “having good promotions and discounts” (35%), “being able to do the rest of the shopping there” (37%) and “offering the best prices” (42%). 

CIDER 

The three most preferred supermarket retailers for cider buyers were Co-op, Morrisons and Lidl – moving Aldi from first place as perceived in ’22. Compared to other categories, when deciding on an in-store retailer for cider, the most important factors are “always having the products they want in stock“ (25%), “having more ethical products” (11%) and “ease of finding the brand they want” (26%). This is a shift from Oct ’22 where having “clear pricing” and “offering the best range of brands” are in the top three factors for cider retailer choice, alongside “ease of finding the brand they want”. 

WINE 

The three most preferred supermarket retailers for wine buyers were M&S, Aldi and Sainsbury’s. When deciding the in-store retailer for wine (compared to other categories covered), the most important factors are “being able to do the rest of their shopping there” (39%), “being close to where people live or work” (32%) and “having aisles and shelves which are easy to navigate” (21%). 

SPARKLING WINE & CHAMPAGNE 

The three most preferred supermarket retailers for sparkling wine/ Champagne buyers were Waitrose, M&S and Lidl. When deciding the in-store supermarket retailer for sparkling wine/Champagne, the most important factors are having “good descriptions of their products” (16%), “offering recommendations for food pairing” (10%), and “stocking products people are unable to find elsewhere” (13%). 

SPIRITS 

The three most preferred supermarket retailers for spirits were Co-op, Asda and Sainsbury’s. Compared to other categories, when deciding the in-store retailer for spirits, the most important factors are “offering best prices” (43%), having the “best value for money” (38%) and “offering the best quality alcohol products” (17%). 

RTDS 

The three most preferred supermarket retailers for RTDs were M&S, Morrisons and Asda. When deciding the in-store retailer for RTDs, the most important factors are showing “good descriptions of products” (15%), “having good availability of different sizes” (16%), and “offering the best quality alcohol products” (17%). 

LOW/NO 

The three most preferred supermarket retailers for low/no alcohol were M&S, Asda and Morrisons. When deciding the in-store retailer, the top three most important factors are “having more ethical products” (16%), showing “good descriptions of their products” (18%) and “stocking products/brands unavailable elsewhere” (16%). 

ONLINE 

Purchasing of any alcohol category (or non-alcohol alternative) online has risen since we did the survey in Oct ’22 (up 3% to 40% in Oct ’23). This is driven by a significant increase in purchase of beer, spirits, and low/no-alcohol beer online. 

Preference to see physical products before buying shows a decline as a barrier to online purchasing since Oct ’22 (down 7% to 32% in Oct ’23), while delivery charges and perception of better promotions in-store continue to be barriers to online purchasing. 

Among online alcohol (or non-alcohol alternative) purchasers, the top three reasons for choosing an online retailer remain consistent with Oct ’22, including “offering the best prices”, having the “best value for money”, and “having a website which is easy to navigate”. 

Among those purchasing online in the three-month period to Oct ’23, beer, cider and wine purchasers are more likely to have purchased via supermarket websites (than those buying other categories online). 

Sparkling wine/Champagne, RTD and low/no alcohol buyers are more likely to purchase via specialist websites than those buying other categories. 

Tesco is the highest preferred online supermarket retailer for spirits, cider, wine and beer buyers, while second most preferred online supermarket retailer among wine buyers has shifted from Asda to Sainsbury’s (up 12% to 27%) in Oct ’23. 

OUR RESEARCH 

This report is based on research conducted by Ipsos for Drinks Retailing between October 17 and 24, 2023. Research was conducted via an online survey of 2,000 UK adults aged between 18 and 75 who said they purchased alcoholic or low/no-alcoholic drinks in-store in the three months prior to completing the survey. The sample, including those who were approached but did not qualify for the survey (did not purchase alcohol or low/no alternatives in-store in the past three months), were weighted to nationally representative UK proportions on age, gender, region and social grade. 

*Analytics were applied to the data to adjust for expected outcomes. It is typical big retailers will achieve high scores across measures due to greater familiarity. The analysis identifies what we’d expect a retailer to achieve based on its size, and measures whether it falls above or below this level. This enables us to identify distinguishing features relative to its size in the market. 

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