Could ‘Moscato Madness’ overcome ‘Prosecco Pandemonium’ in the UK?

November 17, 2015
5 min read

Prosecco has become a hugely popular drink in the UK, with Brits raising a glass in a wide variety of occasions. However, Prosecco’s fruitier cousin, Moscato, could soon be making more in-roads and boosting its limited traction to date.

UK sparkling wine currently has a lot to cheer about, as sales are expected to reach £1.26 billion in 2015. Prosecco has been the main driver of the segment’s significant growth over the past five years, leveraging a premium image but at a more accessible price than Champagne. By comparison, sparkling Moscato has been a relatively small player, with just one in 10 (11%) adults buying ‘any other sparkling wine excluding Prosecco and Cava’, well behind these two other sparklers. However, with Prosecco shortages a possibility in the future, particularly due to its rapid growth in popularity in the US, there could be opportunities for other sparkling wines to capitalise.

Indeed, Moscato brands did try and capitalise on this opportunity as far back as 2012, when Gallo ran a campaign with the singer Holly Valance to boost Moscato’s popularity in the UK. Gallo also launched two new Moscatos in 2014 (a Pink and a Ruby variant), with their sweeter profiles having a specific focus on female drinkers under the age of 35. Prosecco usage also skews towards women and Millennials in the UK, suggesting that primarily targeting younger female drinkers could be a wise strategy for many Moscato brands.

While a quarter of UK wine buyers are interested in new types of sparkling wines, only 13% are interested in those which have a lower alcohol content. Moscatos typically have a lower ABV of 5.5-9%, suggesting that Moscato would have a much better chance of competing with Prosecco towards the upper end of this alcohol bracket. Moscato should also leverage the Italian heritage which has proved so effective for Prosecco, talking about the terroir and grapes which give the wine its light and unique taste.

MXY Fusions Moscato comes to the UK

MoscatoMoscato has in fact been one of the driving forces behind recent growth in the US wine market, with the grape now estimated to account for around 7% of volume sales, second only to Chardonnay in white grape volumes. While Moscato has thrived in the traditional wine format, the rising popularity of Prosecco among American drinkers has led to growing number of operators diversifying and repositioning it as the base for pre-mixed/ RTD options, targeting women under-35 and Black consumers in particular. E&J Gallo’s new Viniq wine/vodka hybrid is a good example of a brand looking to tap into this lucrative group of drinkers.

Moscato is also the latest in a list of categories and brands which have benefited from associations with American rap and hip hop music. Partially owned by the rapper Nicki Minaj, a new 5.5% ABV carbonated Moscato fruit-infused wine/RTD range called MYX Fusions was launched in the US in 2013. Sold in striking 187ml blue bottles, the drink has quickly built up an enthusiastic base of users; it is now sold in the majority of American states and is reported to be the best-selling Moscato wine brand in the US, with sales nudging $18 million in 2014. Considering its success in the US market, it seems likely that the brand will not be short of willing stockists when it has its full UK and Ireland rollout, in its peach and original variants in autumn 2015.

Fruit-infused wines look set to become big business in the UK

MYX Fusions can tap into the rise of fruit-flavoured wines in the UK, with one in 10 adults now buying these types. However, 18% of wine buyers are interested in them, indicating that there is scope for penetration to rise further in the coming years. The success of Echo Falls Fruit Fusions – which has sold over 750,000 cases since launching in July 2014 – was a likely reason for Asda’s bold move to install dedicated in-store fixtures for fruit-infused wines, spritzes and lower ABV wines in early 2015. Fruit-flavoured wines have been successful in making wine more accessible to newcomers and providing clear taste cues for guiding purchasing choices. MYX Fusions could tap into this trend via its Peach variant, and the potential later rollout of the coconut flavour from the US.

Wine-based cocktails are also enjoying a period of popularity in the UK, particularly Spritz (Prosecco with Aperol or Campari and Soda). In fact, 19% of wine buyers are interested in these, rising to 32% among females aged 18-24, a key group for brands such as MYX Fusions. The brand’s smaller serving size of 187ml is well placed to appeal to this cocktail-oriented mindset and compete with drinks such as Spritzes.

Chris Wisson, Senior Drinks Analyst at Mintel, researches and writes reports on the UK drinks industry. He was also responsible for setting up Mintel’s Toronto office which opened in May 2014. Prior to joining the company, he worked for M&S/Park Cakes as a Bakery Merchandiser and as a Business Analyst at Moët-Hennessy. Chris has been quoted in a variety of industry and national publications such as BBC Online, the Financial Times and the Guardian.

Chris Wisson
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