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Far from going out to attract twenty-somethings with flashy new products, the world's wine producers should be targeting their parents, according to market research released at the London International Wine & Spirit Fair.

The study, Wine at Face Value, commissioned by the UK agency Waverly Wine and Spirits, is based on 20,000 interviews a year and is the firm's third annual in-depth study into consumer habits in the UK market.

While the first report identified consumer types and the second looked at drinking occasions, the 2003 report is able to spot trends in the market since the turn of the millennium. It suggests that the fastest growing drinking group is not single people or even young couples, but the older generation.

"Growth in the UK is being fuelled by the over-50s," said Hew Dalrymple, Waverly's marketing director. "They're the ones who are setting the pace."

Nearly 80% of UK households drank wine at some point last year, and the survey classifies these consumers into one of five categories. By far the two largest are Easily Pleased (mostly women, mostly older) and The Entertainers (married couples). Between them these two groups account for 82% of wine sales in the UK.

Both groups are highly price sensitive, but the report sees diminishing sales at the sub £3 level and solid growth at £5.99 as proof that they are prepared to trade up.

The on-trade, though, remains a different story. It might be growing faster than the off-trade, but from a much smaller base, and the retailers do little to facilitate wine purchases. According to the report, 70% of people intending to drink wine default at the bar for lack of clear guidance. The lack of response to recent consumer trends is demonstrated by the fact that while Australian wine is bigger than gin in the off-trade, over half of all outlets don't serve any wine from down under.

"We've a lot of trade education to do," said Dale Phillips, buying director of Waverley Wines and Spirits. "Growth will only come if we look at the facts that are staring us in the face."


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