Alcoholic drinks distribution is evolving, with pandemic-driven developments generating lasting change. The on-trade has faced severe and well-documented challenges as a result of cycles of Coronavirus (COVID-19) lockdowns and restrictions, while e-commerce has suddenly become the major growth story after years of only gradual progress. This report examines the shifting landscape and identifies areas of opportunity.
Alcoholic drinks recorded a substantial 6% global total volume decline in 2020, with off-trade gains only partially offsetting the collapse of the on-trade. The performances of cognac, tequila and non-alcoholic spirits represented rare bright spots.
Store-based retailing remains at the core of alcoholic drinks distribution. Discounters and supermarkets saw solid global growth in 2020, benefiting from the convenience and value for money they offer. Speed and efficiency are key advantages for convenience stores, which also recorded a rise in sales.
The current developments in e-commerce will lead to lasting and significant change for the industry. As well as retailers’ online platforms, direct-to-consumer models and third-party apps are increasingly important in the online sales landscape. Virtual engagement initiatives will remain integral to building loyalty and enhancing brand equity long-term.
Boosted by pent-up demand, there are signs that an impressive on-trade recovery is already underway, although many outlets will not survive the prolonged period of disruption. Cocktails-to-go will continue to offer an additional revenue stream. Initially employed as a necessity in many cases, social media, apps and other digital elements have a role to play in supporting on-trade innovation efforts going forward.
Uncertainty and an uneven economic recovery will drive continued demand for value-focused offers, as polarisation trends become increasingly apparent. This is expected to provide ongoing support for discounters. At the other end of the scale, luxury brands are using direct-to-consumer channels to curate the consumer relationship throughout the purchase process, combining physical and digital elements.
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