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Rabobank analyst issues warning to AlcBev Industry


In December 2019, Rabobank Food and Agribusiness Research sent its clients a major research report by Beverage Analyst Bourcard Nesin. The 15-page 2020 Alcohol E-Commerce Playbook is a deep dive into industry data, performance and  outlook.


But, unlike most analyst reports, this one contained “A Final Warning to Beverage Industry Executives.” Nesin told Wine Industry Insight that he is very concerned about the industry and worried that it may self-inflict permanent damage if it does not take action soon to recognize the vital role of e:commerce. Because of that, he has allow us to make the entire report public to our subscribers.”


“Normally we only make reports available to clients,” said Nesin, “but so many people have contributed to this research that I wanted to make sure that they could share it effectively.”


Below is a quick overview of the report which is available in its entirety at this link. Other than the headlines below, the text presented is directly excerpted from the report.

First the good news: DtC is bigger than we realize

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Alcohol companies are losing billions in online sales

Alcohol brands are losing billions of dollars in online sales opportunities every year, and they are missing a critical opportunity build digital relationships with millions of omni-channel consumers.


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E-commerce could separate alcohol brands from consumers

If alcohol companies are not able to effectively participate in the online ecosystem, e-commerce could become a wedge that separates alcohol brands from their consumers.

Long-term value of e-commerce far transcends current sale revenues

We have produced robust estimates for the total value of the US online alcohol market, but we must offer them with a warning: companies cannot base their investment in e-commerce solely on the value of online sales today.

Actual online sales: Only the tip of the iceberg

A brand’s online presence plays a critical role in driving sales in more traditional channels. Beverage companies must consider digitally-influenced sales, the future size of the alcohol e-commerce market, and the annual value of lost sales opportunities when deciding how much to invest in their e-commerce operations. Actual sales are only the tip of the iceberg.


While there are DtC e-commerce sales for spirits and beer, the market is so small and data so scarce that the segment does not warrant inclusion in this report.

New reality ignored by all but a few enlightened organizations

Only a few forward-thinking organizations seem to understand this fact and are investing enough in their e-commerce capabilities. We want to help the rest of the beverage industry and their executives understand the urgency of building their e-commerce capabilities now.

Act now or fall behind

Failure to act now could also have serious long-term consequences. Every year, millions of consumers start shopping for food and beverage products online. These freshly-minted omni-channel consumers are creating new shopping habits and developing new brand relationships in the online world.


If the alcohol industry does not act quickly, their brands will be left out of this important relationship-building process. In essence, e-commerce could become a wedge separating alcohol brands from their consumers.


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Perhaps most concerning is that online grocery shopping is being driven by millennials and Gen Z, groups that the alcohol industry is already struggling to attract (see Figure 5). Alcohol companies can ill afford to lose another important touch point with young consumers.


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Download the full report here.