Reversing the Wine Decline

Imported wine could offer opportunity for c-store retailers

CHICAGO – Imported-wine volume is in need of a consumption infusion.

The glimmer of hope might be this: Of all the various alcohol beverage segments, wine consumers overindex on diversity. Wine drinkers are considered more likely to try new types of wines than consumers of spirits and beer are.

According to Technomic’s soon-to-be-released 2015 WineTAB report, volume of imported table wine declined in 2014, and the 2015 outlook is similar, said Donna Hood Crecca, senior director of the Technomic Adult Beverage Resource Group, in a recent blog.

Indeed, imported wine has struggled in recent years, while domestic wine continues to grow. Various factors are contributing to lagging import consumption, including challenges faced by some leading brands.

With per capita wine consumption continuing to rise, consumers indicate greater familiarity with domestic wines than imported, with only 5% report being more familiar with imported than domestic wines, according to the On-Premise Wine study.

“The best routes to growth for imported wine likely lie in building consumer awareness and tapping into emerging preferences,” Crecca wrote.

Fortunately there is another ace in the hole that can have an effect: Wine consumers are regarded as the most brand-adventurous. For example, 19% of consumers who purchase several times a year have tried more than 10 brands in the past year, according to a recent Nielsen survey of more than 2,000 adult beer, wine or spirits drinkers.

And the more wine they buy, the more new offerings they try: Thirty-three percent of wine drinkers who purchase once a week have tried more than 10 brands in the past year, according to Nielsen.

Paling by comparison, only 15% of beer drinkers and 5% of spirits drinkers who purchase several times per year have tried more than 10 brands in the past year.

Crecca pointed out that when ordering wine in restaurants and bars, “consumers are not always aware of the origin of the wine they select; on their most recent occasion, three in 10 did not know if the wine ordered was imported or domestic.”

Evolving consumer wine preferences point to opportunities for imported wine, particularly among younger consumers who show higher interest in different wine varietals and styles than their older counterparts do, she wrote.  

For example, three in 10 younger consumers (ages 21-34) report ordering the Spanish wine Albariño in restaurants and bars once a month or more often, notably more than the 12% of those 35 and older who say the same. Slightly more than one-third (36%) of younger consumers report ordering a Malbec varietal as frequently, as compared with 17% of older consumers.

“Given the interest in exploration and authenticity, particularly among younger consumers, raising consumers’ awareness of the range of varietals available and educating them about wine origins may spark increased interest and sales and turn the tide for imported wine,” Crecca wrote.