Health-conscious consumers are reading wine labels as closely as they do food packages.
Wine Intelligence’s 2019 Global Trends in Wine reports, “a significantly higher proportion of consumers now consider alcohol content levels when choosing wine, correlating with a rise in consciousness around alcohol consumption in general.”
A 2019 IWSR drinks market analysis survey reported 52% of U.S. consumers said they’re trying to reduce their alcohol intake. But more than 70% have not considered drinking low- or no-alcohol beverages.
Still, sales of low-alcohol wines increased 26.6% between 2017 and 2018.
“With health and wellness these days, drinkers tend to look for lower sugar and calorie wines,” says Alex Gorelik, co-founder/director of operations of Wine Anthology in Clark, New Jersey.
“Based on my experience, low-alcohol wines tend to be a fad. Shoppers have a specific varietal in mind when they walk in, and not [alcohol by volume] percentages.”
Leora Madden, owner of Pearl Wine Co. in New Orleans, said there’s an increase in the demand for low-alcohol wines.
“Wines like Vinho Verde fly off the shelves here. Some think low-alcohol wines might not be as quaffable, but when you convey to customers that these wines pair well with different foods and they can enjoy more because the alcohol content is low, it’s a win-win,” says Madden.
Blake Leonard, owner/director of marketing at Stew Leonard’s Wines, says sales of canned wines and hard seltzers also take off in the warmer months.
“The selling focus is mostly around the products being flavorful, refreshing and accessible,” says Leonard.
Some retail tips
Train staff to address questions and offer suggestions. “Better for you” means different things to different customers. Retailers may have to help customers understand unfamiliar terms to steer them in the right direction.
“Customers may ask for sulfite-free wines not realizing all wines have naturally occurring sulfites. People consume more sulfites eating dried fruit,” says Ken Maguire, owner of Fox & Hound Wine & Spirits in New Paltz, NY.
Maguire hosts Friday afternoon food-and-wine tastings to educate consumers helps boost sales. During the tasting, the shop offers a 12% discount on featured wines.
Maguire said that he averages a 20% increase in sales from such events.
Don’t Forget Displays
Have displays promoting low-alcohol wines such as cool-climate. Shops can also take advantage of brands with a healthy lifestyle message that offer point-of-sale materials and strategies for educating customers.
The takeaway for industry professionals? While moderation may mean customers are consuming less, but it doesn’t mean they’re spending less.