Wine Tariffs and Wellness and Hard Seltzer, Oh My!

The Wine Industry Is Shifting. Photo Credit: iStock

At Double Forte, we work hard to stay current with industry changes and trends so we can be of the best service to our clients. Our wine team recently attended the Wine Market Council’s Wine Data 2020 to hear the low down on 2019 wine trends and what to expect for 2020.

Wine Tastes Are Shifting

We heard an introduction from San Francisco Chronicle’s Esther Mobley, that much to no one’s surprise prefaced how the younger generation is drinking much less wine than boomers and Generation X, and are instead turning to hard seltzers or low/no alcohol beverages. We also came away with key points that provide hope and opportunity for the wine industry and how we can create more meaningful marketing toward the millennials and GenZers. The rest of the day we heard from council members regarding the looming wine tariffs, the evolution of the direct-to-consumer (DTC) market, wellness trends and the changing winescape. Below we’ve laid out some of our key takeaways from each presentation and how we plan to utilize this information to our client’s advantage.

Opportunity In Wine Tariffs?

Jon Moramarco, a managing partner at bw166 spoke to the wine tariffs and the bottom line is that while we cannot predict the total impact, we can prepare better to limit the risk. While U.S. Trade Representatives recently backed off from the 100% threat and maintained the 25% tariff on still wines under 14% alcohol from France, Spain, England and Germany on, a review of the policy still looms in August. The Wine Market Council predicts that should the 100% tariffs go into effect, we will see smaller international wine sections in retail spaces because it will be too expensive for distributors to maintain such wines at such a high cost. With a surplus of domestic wines, this could be a good time to use up some U.S. inventory and gain market share amongst the international wine industry.

Direct To Consumer Still Growing

Oregon has quadrupled in direct to consumer sales since 2010 and now sits in the number three position, behind Sonoma and Napa, which remains king as the highest DTC selling region. Andrew Adams, editor at Wine Analytics Report, predicted we should continue to see positive growth for direct to consumer in 2020, continuing the trend over the last decade. Adams also discussed general consumer dissatisfaction with how wineries sell their wines online and through the phone. In response, Double Forte is paying more attention to how our clients process payments and how accessible things such as their websites, social media channels, and phones lines are.

Wellness Wines

Lulie Halstead, CEO of Wine Intelligence, focused her discussion on moderation and wellness. It’s no shock that wellness plays a big part of today’s purchasing trends, and we have been working with our clients on how their wines fit into the lives of consumers who are more conscious about what goes into their bodies. Overall, the more mature consumers (55+) maintain that they are not actively reducing the amount of alcohol they consume, according to Halstead. This is positive news for the wine industry. However, 37 percent of Millennials and Gen Zer’s report actively reducing the amount of alcohol they consume, and switching to alternatives such as cannabis, and low/no alcohol beverages or cutting it out altogether.

Health and wellness buzzwords have infiltrated wine advertisements and product branding. Wines labeled “organic,” “environmentally-friendly,” or “sulfate-free” have a 50 percent opportunity index for health-conscious wine consumers.  Again, we must be aware of and respond to what consumers want in their wines and lives.

Dale Stratton, president of the Wine Market Council, spoke to how we need diversified portfolios and to learn from companies like Molson Coors which adapted to the consumer move to hard seltzer, canned wine cocktails and low alcohol alternatives. It’s no secret that White Claw is running the hard seltzer game: what they do right is entice the convenience generation. Generation Z is more likely to choose spirits over wine, especially in a can, and their choice to drink wine is heavily reliant on occasion and mood.

The Pie is Growing

Danny Brager, senior vice president of Nielsen, presented that wine slipped behind the total store (overall grocery list of consumers) buys in 2019, and will continue to decline as long as other categories continue to gain appeal among consumers seeking alternatives. We see a tremendous opportunity for brands who take the time and effort to educate consumers about their wines. We need to be sure we know how to set wines we work with apart, not only from other wine brands, but also from other plethora of alternatives on and coming to the market.

Overall, after an enlightening day, we are more excited than ever to continue to apply these findings to our client’s PR plans as we navigate the year. Now, it’s your turn – go out and get sipping (on wine of course!).


*All data points can be attributed to the Wine Market Council.         

-Miranda Carpanello