A portrait of the Russian wine consumer

Who drinks wine in Russia? Deloitte have released a new report that takes a detailed look at the Russian alcohol market. Anton Moiseenko reports.

Photo by Stanislav Kondratiev on Unsplash
Photo by Stanislav Kondratiev on Unsplash

There is generally not much research on alcohol consumption in Russia, so every time a research report turns up, it’s always an interesting read. Recently, Deloitte & Touche CIS released their analysis of the buying behavior of 1,600 people, representing “eight federal districts, 46 regions, and at least 250 population centers”. Using online surveys “that match the socio-demographic profile of the Russian population,” Deloitte analyzed Russian alcohol consumption patterns and attitudes, along with those of other FMCG categories, such as food and clothing.

Not surprisingly, the typical alcohol shopper in Russia is “at least of average financial standing”. Wine, it turns out, is one of the major alcoholic drinks consumed by 59% of Russians; beer is 63%, followed by Cognac (45%), sparkling wine (41%), vodka (36%) and whisky (25%). Women tend to have a bigger preference for wine, with 69% of them consuming it regularly.

People under 35 prefer wine and beer, while older audiences tend to favour spirits. 

Male dominated

Still, a typical alcohol shopper is, in fact, a male: 26-45 years old, employed and at least of average financial standing. The average Russian spends around 800 RUR ($13) on alcohol per purchase and does so around five times a month, spending $780 annually, which is the same amount as the average inhabitant of Saint Petersburg earns in a month. High income respondents, not surprisingly, spend more.

Russian men spend at least 20% more on alcoholic products and buy them more often, at six times a month versus four times a month. People under 25 buy less and unemployed consumers buy only a little less frequently than those with a job (5.3 times a month versus 3.9 times). 

When it came to confidence, 46% of respondents were sure they had a “strong knowledge” of alcoholic brands, which rose to 54% in Moscow and 57% in Saint Petersburg. Men had much higher rates of confidence about brand knowledge than women, at 59% versus 33%.

Online caution

Deloitte estimates that 39% of Russians are willing to buy alcoholic drinks online – despite the fact that 43% of them also oppose this kind of sales channel, mostly because of concerns around underage drinking. In any case, distance sales are not yet allowed, although there has been some talk about allowing online sales for several years now.

Deloitte’s research confirmed that Russians worry about product authenticity, especially when it comes to online sales – 58% of Russians doubt they can buy authentic alcoholic drinks from the Internet. These fears are easily explained: since 2013, Russian officials banned all discussion and advertising of wine and spirits; the only public information that remains comes from news about criminal activity related to alcohol, and about police anti-counterfeiting actions. Men and younger people in general are more open to the idea of allowing alcohol advertising back in the media.

Despite those fears, 39% of Russian population is ready to buy alcohol online as soon as the ban is lifted — with stronger support from men and people under 30. Cities with widespread online food sales like Moscow and Saint Petersburg are also more open to the idea of buying alcohol online.

Deloitte confirms the wine trade’s belief that Russian consumers are very sensitive to discounting and often buy only on promotion dates or on special occasions, such as New Year sales and Black Fridays; 40% of respondents define themselves as “discount hunters”. This is not surprising, considering food (and alcohol) spending accounts for 31% of the average Russian household budget.

Anton Moiseenko

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