On the heels of the 4th Annual VIBE (Very Important Beverage Executive) Conference in Las Vegas, where the brightest and most innovative minds in the beverage industry come together, Napa Technology released its annual research study identifying the most compelling trends in the wine, beer, and spirits industry.
Napa Technology, developer of the WineStation, conducted a survey asking leading industry experts to share what they see happening in wine by the glass trends in restaurants, arenas, hotels, cruise ships, and more.
An overview of trends for 2013 include a continued effort to reach millennials, more emphasis on women wine drinkers, and a general belief that wines by the glass need to stretch beyond the “known” varietals and be more plentiful.
Last year, Napa Technology uncovered that wines by the glass was on the rise, and being driven by a more sophisticated and younger customer, but that the Baby Boomer generation was a mighty purchasing force not to be ignored.
The general consensus for wine trends in 2013 is that unconventional wines from new world producers including Argentina and a resurgence of old world wines from Spain are encroaching on the California wine stronghold.
Demographic Groups to Watch
Millennials (1980s - 1992) edge out other groups as the demographic that will continue to drive the wine by the glass trends. 44.3 percent of survey respondents believe that this group will outpace both Baby Boomers (46 - 64) and Generation X (65 - 82).
However, most (68.9 percent) reported that Boomers make up a “significant” portion of their wines by the glass revenue.
More than 70 percent of those polled shared that Boomers account for 20 to 50 percent of their venue’s total wine by the glass revenue.
Napa Technology’s analysis is that although Millennials may be driving the exploration of new varietals, they most likely are spending less per glass than their more economically stable Boomer counterparts. This provides a huge opportunity to continue to provide education and tasting opportunities for all demographic groups with the goal of increasing what consumers will spend per glass.
Aaron Inman, general manager and founder of Pinot Patch, an emerging wine label, believes that in the future wine will be more highly targeted not by demographic but by regional preferences. “Wine preferences are highly dependent on familiarity with wine in general. In areas like the San Francisco Bay Area consumers will generally spend more on a glass across all demographics.”
Donna Hood Crecca, Technomic wine industry analyst, reports that wine is firmly positioned as a food-friendly beverage appropriate for everyday occasions. She states that all the stars aligned at the same time: legible and understandable wine labels, familiar varietals, and accessible price points when the Millennials, a food and wine savvy generation, came of drinking age.
Gena Carlin, tasting room manager at Calistoga, California, UpValley Vintners, states,
“Baby Boomers are slowing down on their wine buying. They have the cellar full so to speak and they are now making very selective purchases. In Napa, Boomers want more small, limited production, hard to find wines. And when they find something they like, they will pay a higher price and purchase it by the case."
What's Driving the Wines By the Glass Trends
According to the Napa Technology survey, value is the most important reason people order wines by the glass (39.5 percent); with opportunities to taste more wine as the second driver (29.6 percent); and individual palate considerations as the third most important reason (27.2 percent).
Knowing millennial preferences for individualism, adventurous palates, and economic restraints, it stands to reason that these three values would be most important for the wines by the glass industry today.
According to Thea Dwell, wine blogger and founder of Luscious Lushes, “A strong by the glass program allows the customer to make a selection based on food pairings, as they progress through the meal. It also allows a party of two or more to enjoy their personal favorites, without having to agree on a single bottle.”
Varietals Gaining Popularity
Not surprisingly given that value and adventure are two key traits driving the wines by the glass trends, Malbec and Spanish wines of nearly every variety were listed as those that are gaining popularity.
George Wine, founder of ExclusiveWineClub.com sums up the popularity of Spanish wines in the United States, “Spain has a long wine making tradition and many years of marketing efforts to export to the US market. A huge Spanish speaking community, an emerging wine drinking population segment, in the US makes it easier to engage with Spanish products. And as wine always goes with food, popular Spanish cuisine makes an appealing pair with Spanish wines."
However, champagne and sparkling wines were listed by 37 percent as a category that is moving up in popularity just behind Pinot Noir at 38.4 percent. While champagne and sparkling wines have mostly been reserved for special occasions, this survey may indicate that they are making inroads into the core rotation of everyday drinkers.
According to Michele Smith, proprietor of Vino Bello, a Burian, Washington-based wine bar, “Bubbles are on the rise, we carry 10-12 splits on the menu from Champagne, Prosecco,& CAVA to Brachetto at all times to keep up with demand. And bubbles are not just for women, men are ordering up as well.”
Varietals Losing Ground
Chardonnay was the clear loser with 40 percent of survey respondents reporting that its popularity is retreating with savvy consumers. Many believe that the increase in interesting whites such as Albarino and Torrontes is contributing to the demise of Chardonnay.
Wine, Women, & Boomers
Women wine drinkers represent 30 - 50 percent of their total by the glass business as reported by our wine experts. Most see women, across all age groups, as the key to a robust wine business.
According to Marian Jansen op de Haar, wine curator for Women of the Vines, and responsible for choosing bottles for More magazine’s new wine club, “Women are much more likely to choose a wine based on a recommendation from a friend and less likely to be as concerned with scores as men.” She adds, “For women wine is an affordable luxury that can be enjoyed every day.”
Reporter Kara Newman from Wine Enthusiast, wrote in a recent article that this was the first year that the Wine Market Council included statistics on bottle vs. by-the-glass consumption due to its rising influence. And women account for higher consumption rates of wine by the glass than men.
Despite the fact that survey respondents report women and Boomers make up a significant part of their business, most do nothing to attract either group. However, of those who did indicate they actively pursue these groups, promotions and an increase in varietals top the list of efforts taken.
To attract Boomers, value, more wines by the glass, and more varietals were listed as top tactics.
Wine By The Glass Lists Growing
A whopping 83.4 percent, more than 8 out of 10 operators, report adding more offerings to their wines by the glass programs. The majority, 45 percent, have added three to five dditional by the glass selections.
Preservation Adoption Among Elite Venues
Although wines by the glass are becoming increasingly important to profitability, 55 percent report still using a dated/manual preservation system and more than 18 percent of operators do nothing to maintain the quality of an open glass of wine.
This leaves the door wide open for competitors to capture market share from venues who do nothing to ensure a great glass of wine is poured every time. In a previous Napa Technology wine consumption survey respondents reported that most consumers were savvy enough to know when they were being served an oxidized or otherwise spoiled glass of wine.
According to Jayne Portnoy, vice president brand strategy & marketing for Napa Technology, “No longer can venues get away with unpreserved open bottles of wine because consumers are so well educated, they know the difference.” She adds, “And without preservation, having a diverse and expansive by the glass program, is going to make it nearly impossible to remain profitable.”
The rapid adoption of the WineStation in mid-range and upscale brands such as The Brass Tap, with locations throughout Florida and legendary steakhouse Ruth’s Chris, indicates that sophisticated wine programs are critical pieces to appeal to educated wine drinkers.
Napa Technology believes that wines by the glass programs will continue to grow as consumers demand more variety, operators gain positive experiences with wine by the glass profitability and wine preservation technology becomes more wide spread.
The industry agrees that a wide variety of global wines are driving consumer’s insatiable appetite for wines by the glass in restaurants, cruise lines, arenas, hotels, and more.
To be successful with by the glass programs, operators are deftly keeping up with today’s educated wine consumer by providing choices in varietals, value pricing, and developing a deep understanding that each demographic requires a different approach.
Napa Technology, developer of the WineStation, poured more than 10 million ounces of wine through its systems nationwide in 2012 and is on track to more than double that number in 2013.
Through surveys, studies, data collected from the WineStation’s across the world, and ongoing conversations with leading wine industry experts, Napa Technology is at the forefront of what’s next in wine consumption trends.