COVID-19 restrictions power growth in drinks e-commerce

Lockdown gives pubs, bars, restaurants and suppliers a chance to claim share of the delivered drinks market from supermarkets, CGA’s latest consumer research suggests.
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On Premise consumers are going online to get their alcoholic drinks in increasing numbers over lockdown, CGA reveals in ‘The Future of E-commerce’, an exclusive new survey of the market.


The in-depth research is based on surveys tracking the behaviour of more than 10,000 people over six months. It shows that more than a quarter (28%) of On Premise consumers bought alcohol online in December 2020, up by three percentage points since August. Of these, three in ten (30%) had never done so prior to the pandemic—proof that lockdowns have released a wave of new online purchasers.


Wine is the most popular e-commerce purchase by some distance, the report shows. More than half (53%) of consumers have bought it online—twice as many as have purchased lager (26%) and gin (24%). Soft drinks (21%) and craft beer (20%) complete the list of the top five most wanted drinks in e-commerce.


The report suggests drinks online sales are being driven by older adults who are missing their regular visits to the On Premise. Nearly half (46%) of customers say they drink out at least weekly when they are able to do so—13 percentage points above the national average (33%)—and nearly three quarters (72%) continued to order alcohol online after the end of the last lockdown. With so many online buyers transferring their On Premise habits to e-commerce, it is clearly important to understand their habits when drinking out-of-home as well as in-home.


Online sales are likely to remain high beyond the end of the current lockdown, with two thirds (66%) of consumers purchasing wine online saying they are very likely to do so in the future.


The report also highlights recent innovation in drinks e-commerce, including the rising popularity of alcohol delivery subscriptions. More than a quarter (27%) of consumers buying alcohol online now have a subscription, and nearly half (44%) of them have signed up to one since the first lockdown in March.


The report explores more big trends in e-commerce for suppliers to follow, including drivers to making purchases, new product development and the ways the reopening of the market may affect online behaviour. It highlights consumers’ desire to support small drinks businesses at the moment, and demonstrates the value of branding and promotions in triggering spend.

After a bumper 2020 for e-commerce, this is set to be another strong year for online drinks sales—even once pubs, bars and restaurants reopen,” says Hannah Payne, CGA’s consumer research manager.

While big retailers and familiar brands continue to dominate, the rapid rise of subscriptions and specialist sites shows there is plenty of headroom for growth in this space. For retailers and suppliers, understanding audiences, leveraging special offers and encouraging experimentation and trade-ups will all be important. When the On Premise reopens, it will be fascinating to watch the further evolution in this dynamic part of the market.”

CGA’s ‘The Future of E-commerce’ report is available now. It is essential reading for suppliers and operators seeking to deepen their understanding of consumers’ online habits, the ways they are influenced to spend and how the market is likely to evolve in the coming months. Download more information here, and for details of extra bespoke research, contact Hannah Payne at  

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