Wine Consumers Resilient in Face of Recession

Wine Market Council research reveals overall growth in consumption for 2009.


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Today in NYC, Wine Market Council Executive Director John Gillespie led off the association’s fifth annual road show presenting its research into U.S. wine consumer trends, headlining with the industry’s 16th consecutive year of growth. Although the final numbers for 2009 are still being calculated, consumption grew an estimated 1.2-1.5% over 2008, and adult per capita consumption topped 3 gallons, meaning the average adult American consumed approximately 77 5-ounce glasses (15 bottles) of wine in 2009.

While “marginal” wine consumers—those who drink wine less than once per week—reported drinking less wine in 2009, “core” wine consumers—who account for more than 90% of consumption—reported drinking more wine. Gillespie described this as a “migration toward increasing consumption frequency within core consumers.” Off-premise consumption rose in 2009, driven by additional outlets (4,000 more than in 2008), winery-direct sales, purchases from online retailers and an emphasis on dining/entertaining at home.

Not surprisingly, Millennials, the generation aged 16-33, are more likely than their older counterparts to purchase from wine clubs, winery Web sites or online retailers. They account for 26% of the adult population but only 18% of wine consumption, which makes them, according to Gillespie, “underdeveloped,” and a worthy target for wine marketers.

On-premise wine consumption was hit hard by fewer restaurant visits, less spending on beverage alcohol and a slight downward trend in what consumers were willing to spend on wine. But as Danny Brager, head of Nielsen’s Beverage Alcohol Client Service team pointed out, “In good times people drink, in bad times people drink, but sometimes we do it differently—and that’s what happened this year.”
 

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