What Are The Opportunities In The Wine Category?

The wine category is one that is dominated by big brands and supermarkets. However, the category presents lots of challenges and opportunity for growth. Think about the last time you bought wine – where were you? How did you feel? What prompted your decision making? 

Read our analysis of the wine industry as it stands, and what we could expect for the future of this category.




There are many different things shoppers are looking for when they make a wine purchase in a supermarket. Some are looking for a good, well-known brand. Some are looking for an enticing special offer. Others are looking for a wine that piques their interest or offers something different.

The expertise of the wine buyer varies greatly; there are wine connoisseurs and there are wine beginners. And there are many people who are in-between. Some shoppers look for information within the store environment and learn about the wine they are buying at the time of purchase. Others simply want to be able to make a quick decision with no stress points. Websites and Publications such as Wine Folly aim to dispel the myths and unknowns about wine and provide an educational, informative viewpoint. The information is there for those who seek it out.

Wine Folly

Shoppers often have strong preferences when it comes to wine. There are many choices to make – do I go for red, white or rose? (Most will have a favourite). Many know the price point they are comfortable with and stick to it. They use price as a guidance for quality.

“Somewhere around the £6-£9 price range – anything cheaper makes me think it’ll be rubbish.”

Wine could be seen as a luxury purchase. But it is one that shoppers rarely forgo even when money is tight.

“If times were tight I would probably buy more wine, drink at home pre going out for an evening or with friends and spend less in pubs/bars.  I am more likely to cancel my Sky subscription!”



The retail environment needs to cater for all of these types of shopper. But how can it? With so much choice on offer (Tesco claim to offer the broadest range of wines – with more than 650 wines on their shelves) and many shoppers being price-driven, has the wine aisle in many supermarkets ended up being a “stack them high sell them cheap” model? And is that what we really want?

We know that prices and offers are key drivers to purchase in this category. If you can’t find a brand you know on offer, is it a risk to buy at full price a bottle of wine that you don’t know? Some feel it is.

Price is a hot topic in wine at the moment. Is it time for a simple, clear and straightforward wine price policy to make it less confusing for shoppers? Tesco certainly think so. They have announced a more “transparent and simpler” pricing strategy across its entire range.

“Instead of running lots of half-price promotions, we’ve decided to do things differently. We’re going to offer the same, simple, low prices on wines – all the time,” says a spokeswoman.

For shoppers, this means they will “no longer have to navigate lots of deals” – a bold move by Tesco in a category that is very promotion-led.

Wine aisle



I believe that the wine aisle is a category that retailers should feel they can experiment and innovate in, particularly as it’s a part of the store where the length of browsing is typically longer. Innovation and technology brought to the shop floor can enhance the experience for some shoppers. What about the opportunity to allow wine tasting within the store? There is a crop of some smaller wine merchants who are breaking out and trying engaging retail tactics, such as Loki, Bottle Apostle and Hanging Ditch. For example, one shop is selling books and wine together. Others are giving customers the chance to not only purchase their wine, but also drink and taste their wine in store.

However, how realistic is it for mainstream supermarkets to offer this kind of boutique experience? Not very. But there are some things that they can try in order to make this part of the store even more engaging



Packaging in the wine sector

Packaging plays a critical role in the wine category. Assumptions about quality and taste are made by the packaging alone. Not all of this is rational.

“The shape is really important, I find that if it is wider at the bottom it tends not to be as good, seems like a cheaper bottle – not as high quality! “

However, as an industry, I think the wine sector has been fairly slow to adopt alternative packaging. Glass is still the main container. However, with so many wines on the market that aren’t designed to age for more than one year, many wines could, in principle, be offered in polyethylene, cans or cartons. So long as flavour isn’t affected, alternative packaging could offer a lighter weight, ‘greener’ solution. There is a great opportunity for a brand to ‘stand out’ and lead a change in packaging material.

However, let us not underestimate the power of the consumer experience – a bottle has a big role to play in wine enjoyment.  If we think about a relatively minor change to the wine experience, the move from cork to screwcap, this is a change that is continuing to happen and is becoming more and more acceptable as a choice to make, even for premium wines. But it has taken a while for attitudes towards screwcap to change.



The alcohol industry as a whole is always changing, as consumer preferences change. So, what is the future for innovation in this category? One key trend is the move towards lower alcohol drinks in the beer industry, which may gain more traction in the wine sector too.

It is possible that we may start to see wine become more of a mixer drink. Perhaps this would enable more people to enter the category and customise it to their needs and occasion?

Aside from consumer changes, there is room for alternative packaging in this sector, to be disruptive, environmental or easier to transport – but what will be accepted by the consumer.

I think we can all agree on the one thing that we do not like about buying wine. The hangovers after consumption! But there’s not much that can be done about that…..



Every category is unique and has its own challenges, customer types, purchasing behaviour and insight solutions. At Marketing Sciences Unlimited, we work closely with category managers to help them to improve their performance through sensory research, product and concept testing, packaging research, shopper behaviour and in-store customer experience. We are in the great position of being able to actively follow your product through all stages of the development process, from initial concept, right through to the purchase itself.

Get in touch to find out how we can help you in any or all of the above areas!

Amy Nichols is a Research Director within the Retail Team at Marketing Sciences Unlimited. She specialises in helping retailers to listen to the Voice Of the Customer. She also has years of experience of conducting face-to-face research in-store and understanding the benefits and pitfalls to avoid!

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Amy Nichols
01962 842211
Article date - 19/02/2016
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