Friday, January 09, 2009

Industry News - As reported by Wine & Spirits Daily

Wine & Spirits Daily

January 9, 2009

Alcohol Sales Soft in December

Alcohol sales over the holidays were not so good, according to IRI's four week data ending December 28. A calendar shift is one reason for the decline. Not only was Thanksgiving late this year, but the period ended two days earlier than the same period last year. The next set of data should give a better read.

Nonetheless, Morgan Stanley noted that alcohol volumes were soft, declining -3.6% altogether. Beer volumes were down -3.3%, while spirits volumes declined -5.6% and wine dropped -2.9%. Domestic beer volumes fared better than imports.

Meanwhile, the average price per volume softened somewhat. The industry average increased 2.3% with domestic beer's average price growing 6%. The average price of imported beer grew 1%, while spirits pricing was flat and wine pricing increased 1%.

The shift in the calendar exacerbated trade-down in wine, said Morgan Stanley. In the latest 4 weeks, wine priced $7 and above wine saw sales decline -4.5%, while $7 and below grew 1%. Constellation continued to lose share in wine.


The global recession is making things difficult for wine grape growers in Western Australia who are struggling to find buyers for this season's grapes. It doesn't help that its two largest export markets, the United States and the United Kingdom, are in a recession, prompting large winemakers to think long and hard before entering into a contract. According to the AWBC, exports to the U.S. and Britain declined -26.5% and -18.2%, respectively. Australia's overall wine exports dropped a whopping -26.3% in November and value fell -18% to $2.47 billion last year.

As a result, winemakers are lending premium quality grapes to cheaper labels, or dropping prices altogether. According to local reports, Winemakers Federation of Australia chief Stephen Strachan said he expected the situation to last for about 12 months, which will force the industry to make some adjustments.

In the beginning of 2008, the strong Australian dollar was making it more difficult for winemakers to compete internationally, and a low 2007 grape harvest put pressure on supply. In the second half of the year, the Aussie dollar declined some and a large 2008 harvest took care of supply concerns. However, the poor economy has put a big constraint on exports.

For example, wine grape growers in the Riverland district were reportedly warned they would be paid 30% less than normal, sometimes even below the cost. Constellation also said Wednesday that the situation in Australia, along with the UK, is posing difficulties for the company. Meanwhile, Foster's is still trying to sort out its wine business. Theoretically, we should know what Foster's plans to do with the company by mid February when it releases the outcome of its Strategic Wine Review.

No comments: