Premiumization and online shopping - a pandemic can permanently change consumer habits

In both the United States and the United Kingdom, available data indicate a consumer shift towards e-commerce. Nielsen noted that from early March to April 18, e-commerce retail sales in the US more than doubled compared to last year (+ 234%). In terms of categories, the highest rate of online sales growth was recorded in the spirits segment. The data also show that both the value of online orders and the number of units per order are increasing.

At the same time, despite the deep economic effects of the global pandemic, we are still observing the process of premiumization in alcohol purchases over the Internet. This is mainly due to the fact that alcoholic drinks sold online are cheaper than those sold in bars, hotels or restaurants. As a result, consumers can afford better-quality drinks by spending the same amount of money. Experts predict that these changes will be long-term.

According to the latest Nielsen data from April 29, 2020, the sales curve for alcoholic beverages at US premises has begun to flatten. At the beginning of the pandemic lockdown, on-trade alcohol sales immediately fell by 75%; at the end of April, the loss was reduced to -68%, and eventually companies that managed to operate in new market conditions recorded a 42% increase in sales value for the week ending April 25 compared to the week ending March 28.

Some states have temporarily lifted restrictions on the sale and supply of alcohol online due to the new situation and have allowed restaurants and pubs to provide alcoholic beverages if they are accompanied by food sales. During the two weeks ending April 11, around 14% of take-out orders were for alcohol sales - at the ages of 21-34, the proportion of alcohol with take-away food was 18% and 28%, respectively.

Nielsen also researched the issue of the long-term effects of COVID-19 on consumer behavior in the United States. When asked about returning to bars and restaurants after lifting restrictions:

· 28% of respondents said they would come back when the premises were able to provide them with distance and security;

· 23% said they would return after the number of COVID-19 cases stopped rising;

· 22% will return as soon as local restaurants and bars are reopened.

50% of respondents are planning to drink alcohol in pubs and restaurants equally or more often than before the pandemic. In turn, 41% of consumers want delivery to remain a permanent option.

Premiumisation on alcohol market

Meanwhile, Mintel, a London-based market research company, highlights a significant increase in the number of online grocery shoppers in a recent study, and predicts that this trend will continue after the pandemic has ended and represents a long-term change in consumer shopping habits. In the first days of the spread of coronavirus in the UK, before social distance measures were announced, 7% of Britons increased the total number of online purchases (both food and non-food). In less than two months, online shopping has increased significantly, and the number of consumers who claim to have increased their online shopping has already reached 36%.

The latest study by Mintel forecasts that the online grocery market will grow by 33% in 2020, reaching an estimated value of GBP 16.8 billion, compared with £ 12.7 billion in 2019. This huge increase follows four consecutive years of growth slowdown - in 2019 it fell to a historically lowest level of only 2.9%.

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