Supermarket wine sales during the pandemic

supermarket wine
I need more Barefoot, Josh Cellars, Bota Box, and Stella Rosa!

We’re probably buying more supermarket wine during the pandemic, though we have less to choose from – and we’re likely drinking it with a home-cooked dinner

Supermarket wine seems to be thriving during the pandemic, as we make fewer trips and buy more items – including wine – at one store instead of splitting the trip into two or three stops.

Why seems? Because, as with so many things wine, there are few reliable statistics. As one of the country’s leading supermarket analysts told me, “I’ve heard that’s true, and a lot of people are talking about it, but I haven’t actually seen any numbers about it.”

So what do we know?

• Sales appear to increasing. Kroger reported in December that sauvignon blanc was its fourth most popular purchase in 2020, ahead of bags of chocolate candies and burger patties. In addition, noted the annual Wine Business Monthly study, four supermarket brands — Josh Cellars, Barefoot, Stella Rosa, and Bota — grew significantly in 2020. Stella Rosa, a sweet red, was up almost 108 percent.

• We could buying more private label supermarket wine, according to  the Wine Business Monthly study. This ties into a 2020 food industry report that “three in 10 shoppers said they were buying more store brands than before the pandemic,” and while the report doesn’t mention wine, it does talk about increased demand for all private label products.

• Because price still matters, despite premiumization. The New York Times reported in September that “shoppers are being more economical,” and if it’s true for beans and laundry detergent, it may well be true for wine. That’s my sense, anyway, and especially as I struggle to find cheap wine regularly stocked on store shelves. My Aldi, for example, is regularly sold out of my favorite cheap wines.

• We’re cooking more at home, and it looks like this will continue after the pandemic winds down. And that almost certainly means more supermarket wine sales, as shoppers pick up wine to go with dinner. I was skeptical when I saw this report about home cooking this fall, but more analysts say it looks to be the case. Kroger’s chairman told the Times: “People are moving on to more complex cooking, and we don’t see that going away.”

• Fewer wines to choose from when we do buy in a supermarket, by almost five percent, according to Nielsen. This is part of a larger trend, as retailers cut back on inventory in all departments. Interestingly, that five percent was one of the smallest decreases among the 13 categories in the survey. Is this is another hint at wine’s importance to supermarkets during the pandemic?

• More on-line wine sales. Combine better supermarket technology with relaxed state laws, and supermarket on-line sales probably increased, too. I can buy via Instacart or directly from the retailer’s at half a dozen Dallas grocers. In 2019, there were maybe a couple.

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