Why Consumers are Looking to Familiar Brands During the Pandemic


TORONTO, July 29, 2020 – The COVID-19 pandemic and resulting economic shut down to try and contain the spread of the virus has disrupted all aspects of our lives.

Not the least of which has been how consumers are shopping. With people mostly confined to their homes for several months during a lockdown and widespread closure of much of the economy, they have been forced to look at things differently.

Over course of this, Corby Spirit and Wine has noticed eight trends emerge in the way consumers are conducting their business.

  1. Consumers are choosing brands that are familiar. Well-established brands have been doing well. An estimated 60 per cent of consumers say they have been buying the same name brands during COVID that they usually do, and “power brands” — think a known entity like Absolut — are performing very well.
  2. Premium luxury brands have taken a hit. The closure of bars and restaurants and other on-premise sites have hit ultra-premium brands hard.
  3. Ready-to-Drink products are resonating. The largest growth category in beverage alcohol sales have been in the RTD space — cocktails that are pre-mixed and easy for consumers to both buy and enjoy.
  4. People are buying larger formats. Presumably in an effort to reduce the number of times people have to venture out, Corby is seeing more activity in larger formats. In particular, 1,750 ml bottles have been quite popular, while 375 ml and  200 ml trial sizes have been declining.
  5. Grocery is growing. Again, in limiting the number of trips people have to take, wine sales in grocery stores have been booming. In some provinces, the increase in this sector was in the triple digits.
  6. E-commerce is critical. Consumers have been doing much more shopping online. Direct-to-Consumer sales at Hiram Walker was booming even with the brand centre in Windsor closed. Online wine and spirits sales at the LCBO in Ontario and SAQ in Quebec are growing in the triple digits.
  7. Canadians are changing how they consume media … and what they want to hear. There has been a drop in demand for information on COVID-19. But Canadians are spending more time on digital media sites, with growing expectations from the brands they favour.
  8. More drinks are being enjoyed at home. Consumers are reporting more at-home occasions where they are enjoying a drink, and during the lockdown more people are reporting drinking more wine when it isn’t with a meal. This reinforces Corby’s corporate policy to promote safe and responsible drinking habits.