Whilst the UK wine industry remains confident about its future, the majority of the trade no longer sees the country as the most important wine market in the world, according to a survey of leading business figures conducted by just-drinks.
 
In a survey of over 50 wine industry figures from buyers producers and merchants, released at the LIWF today (21 May), 63% described themselves as optimistic about the market's future - up from 50% in the same survey conducted in 2007. Only 13% said they were pessimistic, compared to 17% last year.

However, only 44% said they believed the UK to be the most important and dynamic market in the world, heavily down on 2007 when 80% of respondents said they saw the UK as the world's key market. Meanwhile 37% said that they no longer saw the UK as the world's number one market, a huge leap on the 4% from 2007. Some 19% remained unsure.

 

The shift in sentiment from last year reflects the continued tough conditions in the UK, and the increasingly tempting array of alternative export markets out there - which may offer richer pickings.
 
Meanwhile, three issues that were scarcely front-of-mind in 2007 have leapt to the top of most people's agendas in the 2008 survey: excise duty rates, social responsibility concerns and environmental issues.

The survey's author Richard Woodard said: "Generally speaking, there is a surprising degree of optimism in the industry, despite the deepening economic gloom, the duty increases announced by the Chancellor, and the almost daily scare stories of binge drinking.

"These immediate concerns, coupled with longer-term trends like increasing production costs, are making people think more broadly - and sometimes even laterally - about the pricing structure surrounding wine, and the slavish devotion to .99 price-points and deep discounting."

The level of debate in the survey on social issues and the fear of more drastic Government action to curb binge drinking has also intensified. There was a growing acceptance that it is not enough to argue wine's corner and quote scientific studies on the antioxidant properties of flavonols. A more proactive approach is growing in popularity, both in terms of lobbying and of initiatives like health warnings.

Perhaps the greatest movement has come on environmental issues. While this was rarely mentioned in the 2007 survey, this year's responses have included a chorus of comments on bottle weights, PET and Tetra-Pak, not to mention UK bottling and even the relative environmental merits of different closure options.

Woodard added: "There is no doubt that a number of short-term factors are pushing up costs and threatening market growth, margins or both. As an industry, however, we are increasingly realistic about the place of the UK market in the global scheme of things. The biggest change in responses over the past 12 months came when we asked whether the UK was still the world's most important and dynamic wine market in the world."

For further information about this survey, visit the just-drinks stand at this week's LIWF, G18, or email editor@just-drinks.com.