First Growth: Champagne to Bring in the New Year with a Sparkle as Brits Lockdown with Fizz

Growth in sales over the 3 months to October is helping Champagne to bring in the New Year in style as Brits turned to something a little special to get them through 2020.

The Wine and Spirit Trade Association’s latest market report shows that 12 week sales in shops and supermarkets of Champagne equated to 2.3 million bottles worth £63 million.

This is growth of 16% by volume and 22% by value – excellent news as we end 2020 for a category that has seen its market share slide as other sparkling wines muscle in.

The 12 week figures show that we’ve been turning to special bottles at home to add a bit of cheer to an otherwise extremely difficult year, with the WSTA predicting we will do so even more over the New Year period.

12 month figures for supermarket-bought Champagne aren’t so rosy – with 11.7 million bottles sold, down 3% on last year, worth around £300 million.

In pubs, bars and restaurants, 2.6 million bottles worth £118 million were sold over the last 12 months – reductions of around 40% on the year before.

This large reduction, the WSTA says, is in line with other categories in the on-trade that have seen similar declines in sales – consumer confidence has taken a pounding and venues have been ravaged by restrictions and repeated closures as a result of the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic.

The total market for Champagne over the last 12 months equates to 14.3 million bottles worth £418 million.

In 2016 over 23 million bottles of Champagne were sold in the UK worth £753 million, but this year, the category is worth over £300 million less, due in part to the collapse of sales in on-trade venues.

But the surge in popularity in the last half of 2020 means it’s not just Champagne feeling the benefits of us enjoying more fizz when we drink at home – overall, the sparkling wine category sold an additional 27 million bottles worth £207 million in the last 12 weeks – growth of 19% by both volume and value.

Despite losses of around 40% in pubs, bars and restaurants, total sales over 12 months for sparkling wine equated to 135 million bottles worth £1.3 billion.

These numbers are larger than 3 years ago, when sparkling wines sold the equivalent of 127 million bottles worth £1.2 billion – without any restrictions placed on hospitality as a result of Covid-19.

Miles Beale, Chief Executive of the Wine and Spirit Trade Association said:

“2020 has been an incredibly difficult year, so it’s great that we can end on a positive note that Champagne sales, after years of decline, are starting to pick up.

“And why not? There is no better way to celebrate than with a bottle of fizz and our numbers show that, even with everything that has gone on this year, many of us are still looking to celebrate or bring a little extra sparkle with a bottle of bubbly. Many will consider it a little luxury for a festive period when we are having to celebrate at home.

“We know that British consumers are becoming more and more adventurous when it comes to exploring the sparkling wine market, and it’s not just Champagne they are turning to – growth in sales of other sparkling wines, like Cava, Prosecco and Crémant are seen in our numbers too. Plus, of course, there are an increasing array of award-winning English sparkling wines to see off 2020.

As we look to 2021, we hope to see the government’s review of alcohol duty correct the indefensible. UK sparkling wine consumers pay more tax on this tipple than any other alcoholic drink and 30% more than on still wine. Removing that would be a new year’s resolution we could all cheer!”