Greece: President of the Greek Sommelier Association
Alcoholic beverages and trends in Greece
Comments by Andreas Matthidis, President of the Greek Sommelier Association
Greece’s drinking culture continues to evolve, reflecting trends for healthier and more responsible lifestyles. More consumers are moving from consuming neat spirits to cocktails and lower-ABV drinks, overall drinking less, a fact that allows them to trade up to premium-and-above brands or imported categories more often. Weekday brunches and after-work drinks are now important drinking occasions, when previously Greeks had preferred to drink alcohol in bars and clubs during weekends. In turn, daytime venues such as cafes have begun to promote their selection of alcoholic drinks more.
The on-trade in Athens and on the Greek islands continues to develop, with more money invested in bartending events, competitions for young bartenders, followed by international distinctions and recognitions. Greeks are becoming less conservative and more open-minded in all parts of life, and therefore are more open to trying new types of drinks.
Still wine: Wine consumption grows as drinks with less alcohol continue to gain favor with consumers who are increasingly looking to make their drinks last longer and appreciate their quality. White wine is dominant even though rosé is slowly gaining market shares. Middle priced wines are losing market shares while premium wines tend to gain a good reputation in consumers choices.
Sparkling wine: The increase in tourist visits to the Greek islands, particularly Mykonos, has led to a boost in the Champagne market. This development reaches double digits figures highlighting the level of visitors on a short list of Greek islands.
Spirits Whisky: The standard Scotch segment is struggling to develop. It is increasingly perceived as boring and is losing consumers to trendier white spirits categories. The only Scotch type that still attract interest is malt Scotch. Consumers shifted their interest more to Irish whiskeys, the only category which has been steadily developing during the crisis.
Vodka: The premium-and-above vodka segment grows substantially as super premium brands benefited from an increase in tourist numbers on the Greek islands during the summer period. The regeneration of the night on-trade on the mainland supported this growth: where whisky used to be the most popular order at bouzouki venues, now vodka is the flagship spirit.
Gin: Gins, particularly at premium-and-above level, grow at an accelerated pace, fuelled by a new trend for gin tonic and gin grapefruit soda.
Agave-based spirits: The tequila market is shrinking slightly overall as most of the largest standard brands lost consumers to trendier gins and vodkas.
Rum: White rums are steadily developing, as bartenders and consumers move on from cocktails such as daiquiris and mojitos. Some bartenders started to innovate with rum, blending several rums into one cocktail. Awareness of sipping rums has become more widespread, prompting some consumers to switch from whisky to aged dark rums. The mainstream dark rum segment was kept afloat by new brand launches.
Aniseed: Tsipouro has been experiencing a revival over the last years. It is thought that this is due to younger consumers creating a trend: while it is the only spirit that many Millennials can afford to buy regularly, they do not want to drink the same brands as their parents’ generation, so they are exploring newer brands. The bottled ouzo market is declining, faced with increased competition from tsipouro at mealtimes. However, it is thought that this drop in official sales is explained in part by many financially pressed consumers switching to the grey market or home production.
Bitters and spirit aperitifs: The spritz trend has been booming in Greece the last years. Because the country’s drinking culture is increasingly focused on early evening occasions, spritz is perfectly placed to capitalize on this. Some new value spirits aperitifs appeared on the market, but their impact has been minimal so far.