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Sweden, a mature market or a market still evolving?

In the Wine Intelligence analysis, the reasons for concern, and those for confidence, in a country worth 201 million euros to Italy

Among the target markets for wine, including Italian wine, is, steadily and after a constant growth in consumption over the past decade, Sweden. The Scandinavian country, in 2021, imported 201 million euros worth of wine from Italy, 8% more than in 2020, a year marked by the pandemic but which did not affect Swedish consumption at all, thanks in part to the role of the state monopoly, Systembolaget, which is always careful to intercept new trends and ensure an adequate and balanced supply. Yet, according to “Wine Intelligence”, Sweden’s market is showing the first signs of slackening or, worse, stagnation, typical of a market that seems to have peaked and may struggle to grow from now on.

This is within the realm of predictions, backed up by interesting numbers, but there are just as many reasons to believe a market is evolving rather than stagnating. First of all, the number of regular consumers (who drink wine at least once a month): 3.8 million Swedes, half a million less than in 2017, while the number of those who drink wine at least once a week has remained unchanged, and is now worth 66 % of wine consumers as a whole. Thus, overall consumption in 2021 marks a slight decline: from 25.1 to 24.9 million cases, and while the two years of pandemic can be found as an explanation, it should also be remembered that the consumption of beer and spirits, on the contrary, grew anyway. Just as in so many other mature markets (the U.S. above all), driving consumption is the Boomers generation, to whom a good half of the wine purchased in Sweden can be traced. In contrast, the over-55s are the most sensitive to price dynamics and the most reluctant to novelty: they know exactly what they want, and they buy what they like.

One interesting fact is the growth, of 4-6%, between 2019 and 2021, in the average spend per bottle on the off-trade channel, with the average receipt increasingly exceeding 50 euros. It is difficult, for now, to understand whether this is a normal inflationary dynamic or whether we can instead talk about premiumization. Certainly, driving the growth in average spending are Millennials, who spend on average between 5% and 10 % more than any other demographic group. The variable related to price growth and shrinking purchasing power, however, will also matter in Sweden, where consumers are still looking to the future with some confidence, albeit with the caution that prompts them to weigh their spending carefully. Even when it comes to wine. There is, however, one category that has nothing to fear, that of mid- to low-priced bubbly, namely Prosecco and Cava, which is growing rapidly in the Swedish market: in 2021, half of all Swedish wine drinkers uncorked at least one bottle of Italian bubbly, while the percentage of those who drank a bottle of any red fell from 90% in 2019 to 83%.

The consequence of this change, which rewards lighter wines he sparkling, thus impacts New World countries such as Chile, South Africa, Australia, and Argentina, which produce mainly full-bodied red wines with significant alcohol content, and destined to experience a decline in exports to Sweden over the next five years.
Another important growth driver is organic wine: according to the Wine Intelligence Global Opportunity Index, Sweden ranks second (behind only China) in terms of potential future growth, not only because there is great concern among consumers about ethical standards and health, but also because of the role of Systembolaget, through which more than 85% of all wine sold in the country passes, which has made the organic standard a key priority. To date, 80% of Swedish wine drinkers are familiar with organic wine and more than 40% bought at least one bottle in 2021, but these numbers are set to grow significantly.

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