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2019 Trends to Look Out for in the UK Wine Scene

26/12/2018

UK’s official leave date from the European Union on 29 March 2019 is going to have a very big influence on the wine industry.

It’s hard to predict anything about 2019 without bringing up the ‘B’ word - Brexit. Just what happens over the coming weeks, as we count down to the UK’s official leave date from the European Union on March 29, is going to have a very big influence on how the overall wine industry performs for the rest of the year.

Controlling supply

The first priority for anyone involved in, or affected by, the UK wine scene is to guarantee your wine supply in the first half of 2019. If you are a wine importer or supplier that will mean taking steps to ensure you have enough wine on the right side of the Channel to be able to continue to trade and supply wines to your customers for the immediate weeks and months after the Brexit deadline.

As Andrew Bewes, managing director of Hallgarten Druitt & Novum Wines one of the UK’s major national wine distributors, says: “You have to plan for the worst and that is not having any stock to sell...the first six months of 2019 is going to be a massive challenge. It’s up to us to make sure that there is as little impact as possible on our customers.”

Equally, if you are a wine buyer for a retailer, wine merchants, restaurant or bar then you need to be thinking both about what you can afford to buy once the UK leaves the EU, and what might be available in the market.

Hedging currency

With the currency markets as volatile as they are, the pressure and challenge for anyone in the wine industry are to ensure they have enough currency hedged to be able to cope with any violent swings, up or down, for sterling in the coming months. Currency analysts predict the pound could move between 10% to 20% against the dollar and the euro depending on how Brexit is sorted out. Which is why so many wine companies are looking to spend as much as they can on safeguarding currency for at least the first six months of 2019.

Consolidating market

All of which is likely to see further consolidation within the wine industry during 2019, both on the supplier side, and also in terms of the retail landscape and the type of restaurants and bars that are going to be fit for purpose in the coming months.

Businesses that have put in the right steps over the last 18 months will prosper as others around them fail. The key challenge will be how flexible, and multi-channel, your business is to adapt, change, upscale or downsize, depending on the state of the market you find yourself operating in. There have already been some major casualties in the wine sector over the last two to three years and that pace of change is only likely to intensify over the next 12 months.

Taking control

There will also be plenty of companies looking to follow the advice of British Prime Minister, Theresa May, and “take back more control” of the business decisions they can influence. Expect to see private labels become even more popular in the trade in the coming months as retailers and restaurants alike, turn to their suppliers and ask them to pin down their supply chain by helping to source, develop, design and distribute wines that either have their name on them or are exclusive to their business.

That way they can set and dictate their own pricing structure and if they need to put prices up, then they don’t need to ask any one’s permission to do so. Equally, if they want to switch which wine goes into what bottle

Packaging design and AI

It’s not just what’s in the bottle that is going to be important in 2019, but the bottle it is in, and even if a bottle is required at all. 2018 will be seen as a breakthrough year in wine packaging and when different options, particularly cans, started to make an impact. We can expect 2019 to the year when cans become mainstream. Particularly if the US is anything to go by with sales of wine in a can up 43% in 2018, worth $50m (Source: BW 166 LLC) in a market that is otherwise flat.

This growth and interest in new wine packaging can only widen over the next 12 months, as technology and design combine to allow producers and brand owners to become ever more imaginative with labels that use augmented reality and artificial intelligence to move and talk to us. The benchmarks have already been set by brands such as 19 Crimes. The challenge now will be to see how brands take that on in 2019 to ever more imaginative and creative executions. 

Lighter and fizzier styles

Wherever you look to spend your money in 2019, make sure you concentrate your wine buying on lighter, fruitier, lower abv wines. A quick look at the fastest selling wines in recent years shows how quickly our collective wine palates have changed from wanting big, bold, oaky reds and whites, to turn our attention to lighter Italian, Spanish white and red wines, Provence rosés and bright, fresh, sparkling wines, driven by the Prosecco phenomenon.

Not only are these wine styles easier and fresher to drink, but they also make us feel better about ourselves as they are lower in alcohol and allow us to watch what we drink more easily.

2019 will be the year when we get to see lighter styles, and different varieties on our shelves as trade buyers and consumers look to experiment and try new wines.

All in moderation

Which brings us to an even greater need within the wine sector to understand and appreciate the fact the average consumer does not want to drink wine every day of the week. The opportunity, therefore, is not to entice them down the wine aisle with another discount or promotion, but to work even harder to tell them stories about the wines that deserve a little more time and attention, but might cost a little more as well.

If Prosecco has managed to convince us all to treat ourselves with everyday bubbles, then 2019 is the year for still wine to do the same.

Other related articles that might interest you

 - Inside the UK Wine Retail Scene

 - How Can Wine Suppliers Help UK Wine Retailers Drive More Sales

About the Author

Richard Siddle

Richard Siddle is an award-winning business editor with over 25 years experience working across a number of fields including computing, FMCG, grocery and convenience retailing, travel and for the last 10 years wine and spirits. He spent much of that time as editor of Harpers Wine & Spirit where he was widely recognised for having turned one of the UK’s oldest publications into an agenda setting, must read for the drinks industry.

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