bottles of wine on a supermarket shelfBrits spent £10.4bn on wine in 2011, with sales expected to rise by 2.4% to £10.6bn in 2012. But volumes have fallen from 1.26 million litres in 2007 to 1.14 million litres in just five years.

Now Brits are turning to cheap wine in boxes and pouches instead of bottles to save cash. As many as four in ten (39%) wine users say plonk in a box is as good quality as bottled wine and just 26% reckon it is inferior.

Screw that

The research from Mintel also found that screw tops are even less of an issue for wine lovers, with just 17% claiming not to trust "screw cap" quality wine.

It all signals a potential move away from high-class brands to discounted plonk. Although almost three quarters of wine buyers (73%) trust leading wine brands to provide a consistently good product, almost two thirds (63%) of wine buyers claim that they would switch from their favourite brand if another was on promotion.

Chris Wisson, senior drinks analyst at Mintel, said: "Recent years have seen many wine drinkers reappraising their perceptions and use of wine in differing formats and packaging styles.

Thinking outside the box

"Boxed wine has the added advantage of the wine keeping for a longer period of time than in a bottle, facilitating more flexible usage and encouraging moderate drinking. Reducing wastage, boxed wine provides an ideal solution in a market which is both environmentally and cost conscious."

"With many brands now moving away from unsustainable promotion-heavy models, volume sales look set to continue sliding in the years to come. However, many consumers are likely to be reluctant to stop buying wine altogether and depending on the level of inflation, the price rises may be higher than the fall in volume, with potential for further value growth.

"Growing segments such as boxed and low-alcohol wine may help to stimulate some growth and represent a cost-effective means of keeping wine drinkers engaged with the market."

Little ole wine drinker, me

It's not all price and brand name that dictates wine buyers' decision-making. The majority of 57% list the grape type as one of their main choice factors is a surprising finding, well ahead of the 38% who identify country of origin as a main driver when buying wine.

Mintel reckons supermarkets may have got their layouts wrong betting shelves out based on country of origin.

Up-coming rosé

Researchers found rosé wine is growing in popularity and is now drunk by 43% of adults. Mintel says it has become a more acceptable drink for all ages and, more importantly, both men and women alike. In 2012, six in ten (60%) wine buyers think that rosé is a drink that is equally suitable for both genders, with just 15% disagreeing.

English wines

Although accounting for a fraction of the total market value, English wines have seen significant growth in recent years with sales estimated to be up to £25m, an increase of over 50% in value and 25% in volume on the previous year.

Today, there is a high level of enthusiasm among wine buyers to try wines from many different countries (72%), and English wine has been one of the main beneficiaries of this open-mindedness, with 56% of consumers more open to trying English wine than in the past. Improving quality perception has played a role in this, as one in two (52%) agree that English wines have improved in quality.

Wisson says: "English wine looks well placed to continue growing in the coming years, with increasing numbers of vineyard plantings and bottles produced. While growth is rapid, the English wine industry faces some key obstacles including limited mainstream availability."

Home advantage

Indeed, price is also proving an obstacle for some wine lovers. While half of wine buyers (47%) think that it is important to buy English wines to support local producers, only 15% are prepared to pay a premium to do so.

Other issues include confusion between the significantly different English and British wine markets - over a third of wine drinkers (35%) think that British and English wines are the same.

Low alcohol wines

Despite the difficulties and potential extra costs of production, lower-alcohol wines are one of the few segments of the wine market showing robust year-on-year growth, with value sales increasing by 40% to around £23m over 2011/12.

The market has benefited from lower duty on wines with an ABV of 5.5% or less and a growing emphasis on healthy lifestyles and lower alcohol consumption, although still just one in five wine buyers (19%) claim to be interested in lower-alcohol wines.

Taste presents a notable barrier for low alcohol wines, with a third (32%) of wine buyers preferring the taste of normal-strength wines. But, on a more positive note, only 27% of wine buyers would expect lower-alcohol wines to taste inferior.

Tax breaks

"Many wine drinkers are becoming increasingly price-sensitive and unwilling to pay more for their wine. The opportunity for wines with an ABV of 5.5% or less is that some of the tax savings could be passed onto consumers, encouraging less affluent users in particular to remain engaged with the market," says Wisson.

"However, the issue for producers of these lower-alcohol wines is that they are often more difficult and expensive to produce than standard-ABV wines and operators should continue to focus on improving the efficiency of their manufacturing process to be able to compete with standard wines on price profitably."