The on-trade pioneered 18.7cl, or quarter-bottle, serves of wine, but they were made legal for the off-trade in 2009 and have won a following with consumers looking for something to drink straight away that will not exceed their recommended daily units, and won’t have to conform to anyone’s taste but their own.
Some 2.5 million people in the UK now buy 18.7cl bottles of wine at least monthly, according to Wine Intelligence – about 8% of the wine- buying public – while around 42% have bought a small bottle in the past year.
Single-serve 18.7cl bottles of wine are the second-biggest pack size in the UK market after 75cl bottles, according to Nielsen – but they account for just 3.5% of the market, compared to 93% for standard bottles. Sales have barely changed since last year, although they do considerably outstrip those of 50cl and 37.5cl bottles, which make up just 0.2% of the market combined.
Branded and own-label wine supplier Broadland Wineries has put in a new bottling line to allow retailers to order smaller quantities of 18.7cl wines, either in glass or PET bottles.
They can now get small bottles in batches of 2,000 litres of wine, whereas in the past the minimum order would have been 6,000-12,000 litres.
Managing director Mark Lansley says: “In grocery we see opportunities for experimentation in meal deals, but it is a bigger opportunity for convenience retailers and off-licences – 18.7cl bottles are easy to carry, and they can help you control your consumption and ration yourself.
“Younger folk are using 18.7cl bottles to trial things – it is less of a risk for them to pay £1.50 to try it, and if they like it they are happy to buy a 75cl bottle.”
But he says: “The off-licence, impulse and convenience trade has been held back because the production side of 18.7cl bottles has been so inflexible. With smaller order quantities and being able to offer a broader range of wines, we believe we could help smaller retailers provide a greater range of fresher wines on shelves.”
Lansley says independents are commissioning Broadland to hit certain price points – including one as low as £1, compared to an average bottle price for 18.7cl of £1.75.
But smaller bottles are not just for impulse stores. Tesco has a broad range of 18.7cl bottles for sale in a four-for-three offer, Sainsbury’s is running a two-for-£4 promotion and Bargain Booze stocks 18.7cl bottles of Copestick Murray’s I Heart wines in a two-for-£3 deal.
Buckingham Schenk is seeing good sales for its 18.7cl pre-filled PET wine glasses, which sell in M&S and Sainsbury’s – and do particularly well in take-away food sections and railway station outlets – as well as at events and festivals.
Buckingham Schenk is also the agent for 50cl brand 50, but managing director Jon Pepper says interest in this sector has “quietened down”. “Four years ago we did a lot of work on it, but it never took off for us,” he says.
“I still think 50cl is an interesting concept – you save so much duty you can offer an interesting price point, and it’s still a good size. It’s an alternative format and needs careful positioning.”
TRIAL SUCCESS: SPIRITS SEIZE OPPORTUNITY
Retailers should make more of 5cl miniatures as they are an ideal way to get consumers to try different spirits brands, says Malcolm Cowen sales and marketing manager Peter Lord.
“Many retailers only stock a limited range – Bell’s, Gordon’s, Smirnoff, Jack Daniel’s and the like – but those are not necessarily the brands that are most popular,” he says.
“The future for miniatures is healthy – they offer a trial opportunity, a small, easy serve when required, and an opportunity for a supplier to get its brand out to the consumer cheaply by offering them free with another mainstream brand.”
He adds: “Miniatures and smaller packs are popular with independents because multiple grocers can find it difficult to display or even stock this size of brand securely.
“That means people with a little less money in their pockets may be forced to shop locally. Independents can display small packs behind their counters, high on shelves or in sections of the old cigarette units – they can be an impulse purchase for someone wanting to try a new brand like our Balkan 88% abv vodka or Berentzen German fruit schnapps,” Lord says.
Tesco is keen to grow its 5cl offering, particularly on the premium side, says category buying manager for spirits Chris Gee.
The supermarket has recently added 20cl bottles to its spirits range and says they are performing strongly, although behind the more popular litre and 35cl sizes.
He says: “The various vessel sizes are merchandised within their respective category – whisky, for example – and we have started merchandising the various brands of 35cls together, as data shows a growing number of customers will make a vessel choice before choosing the brand.
“Space is always challenging and the key is to ensure there are enough facings of the smaller vessel sizes given their higher rates of sale.”
Jägermeister has recently introduced a 20cl bottle and says its 35cl serve is particularly popular.
Group marketing manager Nicole Goodwin says: “Smaller serves not only help drive trial of a product, they are also perfect for consumers on a budget.
“Many consumers would rather buy a smaller bottle of their favourite spirit, which provides them with the quality and authenticity they desire, over a larger and cheaper imitation brand.
“The smaller serves market grew significantly in 2013 and we expect this to continue well into 2014.”