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Waitrose: consumers likely to explore in 2021 after seeking comfort during ‘uncertain’ 2020

Alternative formats and comforting old favourites have risen in popularity this year as consumers seek comfort and convenience in uncertain times, according to the latest Waitrose Food & Drink report – but 2021 likely to see more exploration in terms of lesser-known wine regions and grape varieties, exotic spirits and unusual flavour combinations.

Summarising two key drink trends in a year “like no other”, Waitrose BWS boss, Pierpaolo Petrassi MW said that the change and uncertainty of 2020 saw us turn to old favourites as well as exploring formats that ticked the boxes for ethical credentials and convenience.

“Lockdown saw people reduce the number of visits they made to shops, so larger formats like bag in box were in demand and customers haven’t looked back,” Petrassi said. He pointed out that wine in cans, cocktails in post-friendly sachets and bag in box wine have “pushed the boundaries of how people expect to buy good-quality drinks” and this trend will only grow on the back of innovation in the industry and more customers embracing different types of packaging.

Meanwhile, consumers stuck at home polished up their mixology skills to ensure they didn’t miss out on our favourite cocktails and settled down with “a trusty bottle of Malbec or Sauvignon Blanc”.

“For 2021, our sense of exploring the new will be refreshed with 20% of us saying we plan to continue experimenting with new drinks at home, rising to a third among 18-24 year-olds. We also expect to see a rise in popularity of lesser-known wine regions and grape varieties as well as more exotic spirits and unusual flavour combinations.

Writing in the report, Waitrose Wine buying manager Jamie Matthewson predicted that sherry, English wine and no and low would continue to see growth in 2021

Sherry has seen a steep increase in popularity, with consumers rediscovering classic or traditional styles of Manzanilla, Amontillado and Oloroso – where previously it was all about sweet cream sherries – as well as exploring more. He noted the rise of martinis with a sherry rinse, sweet sherry and more consumesr discovering sherry’s food matching potential from salty cured meats to rich, indulgent desserts.

English still wine is also set to grow on the back of last year’s excellent harvest.  “The quality of the 2019 vintage of English and Welsh wine is the best we’ve ever seen and this, combined with the increase in popularity of English and Welsh reds – particularly lighter styles – make a bumper year for home-grown wine,” Matthewson said.

Rosé sales had also seen its strongest year, up 57% during the autumn alone, compared to the same period last year, proving that “pink is officially for all seasons”, Matthewson said. “Rosé wine had its biggest year ever last year, and this will only continue to grow in 2021.”

Spanish Albariño and Primitivo were also tipped for growth, with the former set to “have its truly mainstream moment in 2021”.

Sales of no alcohol alternatives was also up 22% year on year, the retailer said, with 18% of consumers planning to try more low-alcohol or alcohol-free drinks as part of the wider trend to reduce alcohol consumption and boost health.

Meanwhile spritzers and flavoured vodkas area also on trend.

“The growing trend for flavoured spirits, led by gin, has seen flavoured vodka become the latest spirit of choice,” Matthewson said, pointing to “fun” flavours such as fir, rhubarb and marmalade, that are likely to do well.

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