Moderation and Drinking Across Categories on the Rise

Presenter at Wine Market Council
Photo by Studio 707 for Wine Market Council

Promiscuous drinkers and a trend toward moderation dominated discussions at the Wine Market Council’s Wine Data 2020 meeting in San Francisco on Tuesday.

Consumers are playing the field, according to Danny Brager, senior vice president of Nielsen’s Beverage Alcohol Practice Area. “Exclusive wine drinkers represent only a small percentage of sales,” he said. More than 60% of wine drinkers also drink beer and spirits, and 32% consume other types of adult beverages.

Those other types are currently led in growth by hard seltzer, most notably White Claw, categorized with beer although it never sees a grain of barley or a bud of hops. White Claw and Truly, which is owned by The Boston Beer Company, are Nos. 1 and 2 in the new category that grew by more than 200% to $1.5 billion in sales in the 52-week period ending December 28, 2019.

Consumers are also flocking to hard tea (up 13% year over year), non-alcoholic beer (up 21%) and hard kombucha (up 69%).

Around 37% of U.S. wine drinkers are trying to limit their intake of alcohol, according to Lulie Halstead, co-founder and CEO of Wine Intelligence, an international market research firm. Millennials are the largest segment actively reducing their alcohol consumption, while baby boomers are holding down the fort, as 74% said they are not cutting back.

The latest data on direct-to-consumer (DTC) wine shipments was more encouraging to winery executives. The value of wine club and e-commerce shipments grew by 7% in 2019, and wines from Sonoma and Oregon in particular made strong strides, according to Andrew Adams, editor of the Wine Analytics Report.

DTC wines averaged $39 a bottle compared to about $10 for wine overall. Napa remains king of this high-priced domain, with 47% of the sales revenue, Adams said. Still, the DTC category’s growth rate has dipped from almost 12% in 2018.

Brager advised that consumers care about occasions and convenience, smaller-serve packaging, health and wellness trends and transparency about what’s in their beverages. He summed up his advice to marketers this way: “Give consumers what they want, where and how they want it.”

For anyone with lingering concerns, the session’s keynote speaker gave a big-picture analysis. “The greatest threat to American wine is not from without—It’s from within; it’s homogenization,” said Esther Mobley, wine critic for the San Francisco Chronicle. “What we love about wine is its capacity, even after we’ve been drinking it for years and feel like we have some intellectual mastery over it, to not only awe us but to confound us. White Claw cannot do that.”

Published on January 31, 2020
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