41% of UK pubs ‘still don’t offer wine list’

UK pubs are falling behind on their wine offer with the category increasingly missing out to craft beers and spirits, according to Crown Cellars’ first on-trade study that showed that 41% of wet-led pubs don’t even have a wine list.

Carlsberg W-S 484

Crown Cellars, the wine and spirits division of Carlsberg UK, unveiled its first Future of On-Trade Wine report this morning.

Crown Cellars, the specialist wine and spirits division of Carlsberg UK, unveiled its first Future of On-Trade Wine report this morning based on interviews with more than 1,000 wine consumers and 500 on-trade outlets. The research found that 41% of wet-led pubs don’t even offer a wine list, with craft beer and spirits continuing to edge ahead of wine in terms of their offer within the sector.

“Wine in the on-trade has developed and evolved significantly in the last decade, but it is clear that there is still some way to go to catch up with other drinks categories and with customer expectations,” said Paul Waller, director of Third Party Brands.

“When you consider that 41% of wet-led pubs still don’t have a wine list, and 28% of pubs don’t think that wine training is important, there is still work to be done”.

Drinking less but spending more

“Big trends are shifting which is shaping the on-trade and changing how, where and when people drink,” added Sarah Allaway, category development manager at Carlsberg Group, speaking at an event to launch the report.

“Expectations are rising. People want the best. They are prepared to pay more but they look around,” she said. “On top of this 80% of people want to moderate their alcohol consumption. Not just alcohol but sugar and fat. We are trying to be healthy. We are trying to moderate our behaviours and it is showing within the numbers. It means that when we do go out we want it to be the best. Spend is rising but we are having less occasions.”

The report also uncovered two very different types of consumer; Millennials, those born in the 80s-00s, and the rest, those born before the 80s. Both groups indicated that they would like more choice and help with navigating wine lists within the on-trade, with a desire for quality underpinning their choices.

While the needs of both groups are similar, the report found that the way in which the on-trade speaks to these consumers needs to be tailored in order to recruit millennials into the wine category and retain those over 30.

Typically millennials were found to be less price sensitive and have the widest repertoire of on-trade outlets than any other group with new experiences key. Non-millennials, those born before the 80s, were found to frequent a smaller number of on-trade outlets with visits motivated by habitual behaviour and occasions.

“Millennials are fundamentally different to every group in history,” said Allaway. “They are so different is they have grown up in a period of flux. We have to balance the need of millennials to recruit them into the category, and make sure that the over 34s are still trading up and buying into the category. Their needs are similar but what they need to hear is totally different. That came out very clearly in the report.”

Key varieties for millennials included Chardonnay and Sauvignon Blanc, with the variety of a wine generally more important than its origin or brand within this demographic.

“They use these to understand a category and then move forward, so they are really important for recruitment,” said Allaway.

Interestingly, Crown Cellars’ research found that millennials were more in favour of simple, easy to understand descriptors when it comes to wine, compared to other categories such as craft spirits and beer where greater emphasis on style variations and provenance are key. They want to be “enlightened” and told what to drink, said Allaway, because they don’t know about wine in the same way as non-millennials.

“With craft millennials want to learn about the hop variety and tasting notes. Whereas with wine there is this feeling that they should already know about it. There’s nervousness. It feels ok to want to know more about craft because its new to everyone. With wine they need a simple description, but in 5-6 years that’s going to be different. They are going to want to know more about where it’s from and so on. But they are just not there with this category yet”.

Where would we be without Prosecco?

Using Prosecco as an example, Kevin Patterson, Carlsberg marketing manager for wines, spirits and soft drinks, credited the Italian sparkler with keeping millennials interested in wine.

“The growth of Prosecco, a lot of that has been driven by millennials and it’s not a complicated liquid. It’s driven by being cool. They want the bottle on the table. Prosecco has been a very easy step into the category. Without Prosecco where would [the wine category] be? I think we would have lost millennials to these other categories”.

In comparison, those aged over 34 are “less experiential” and prefer full-bodied Shiraz and Cabernet Sauvignon, typically. However the study found that 14% of on-trade outlets surveyed didn’t stock a Shiraz, rising to 17% for Cabernet Sauvignon.

“Over 30s are more ‘I know what I’m talking about so respect me’, said Allaway. “The biggest thing that will make them trade up is a taster. If you give them a taste they are more likely to trade up because they see that as being respected”.

“Descriptions need to be a bit more sophisticated,” added Boddington, wine buyer at Crown Cellars. “So, ‘if you like Sauvignon Blanc try Picpoul’, rather than ‘it goes well with chicken’. So these two groups need to be spoken to in different ways”.

Disparity between the trade and consumer

The study also found that the trade has a more positive view of the wine industry than consumers, with the biggest disparities around the perception of range of wines on offer and quality of staff advice. Indeed, 61% of the trade thought that the quality of wine had improved in recent years compared to only 35% of consumers. 43% of the trade felt their staff were good at offering advice, compared to just 14% of consumers, indicating a disconnect in staff training

“Consumers often find a wine list complicated and they just want to be pointed in the right direction,” said Louise Boddington, wine category manager for Crown Cellars. “So training is really important and descriptors. I think we can get carried away writing complicated tasting notes and it just confuses people more. Fresh and fruity or soft and mellow; just keep it simple”.

Louise Boddington

Louise Boddington, wine category manager at Crown Cellars

Looking ahead, Boddington sees Spain and Italy continuing their dominance over wine sales, highlighting growing interest in more premium wines such as Albarino, Mencia and Godelo from Spain and Laguna, and Verdicchio and Barolo from Italy. With Prosecco responsible for the vast majority of growth within the sparkling category, Boddington questioned if there would soon be room for other sparklers to break through as consumer look for alternatives to Prosecco, pointing toward English sparkling wine and Cava.

“Value conscious consumers in particular might look to other regions if Prosecco prices start to rise due to the price increases being applied to the growers in this region,” she said.

At the other end of the value spectrum, premiumisation continues to be a growing trend within UK the on-trade with volume sales declining across most categories, but rising in value.

“This suggests that consumers are going out less, drinking less per visit but happy to spend a little more on their chosen tipple when they do,” said Boddington. “This offers great opportunities for increased margin by introducing drinkers to more expensive products”.

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