Some interesting new info picked up in Mark Brown’s Industry News Update today via Drinks Business in the story below. Sandy definitely has his finger on the pulse of the consumer, particularly those at above-casual-dining level. I think the “stories” thought is particularly important. Think teasers or short stories on the back label, with links online (from/to?) more online. Example. Wine profiles are UGC (user generated content) on Snooth, one of the more popular wine websites which gets 1.5MM visitors per month. Brand owners control the message and can integrate marketing into the profiles. You could institutionalize stories in Snooth, content which can then get scraped or promoted out to other reference sites such as the many apps that are gaining traction in the US.
Repeatable/tweetable/postable anecdotes can turn an unfamiliar wine into an in-the-know recommendation.
One addition to the trend list…we’ve seen a steady and significant growth in the popularity of red blends.
Napa forum MW asks ‘is wine still cool?’
30th June, 2014 by Catherine Seda Bugue
A group of 80 winemakers, winery marketing representatives and media gathered at the Harvest Inn in Napa Valley’s St. Helena this month for the second annual Wine Conversations: A Global Tasting and Marketing Forum.
Sandy Block, MW, Legal Sea Foods Beverage Director (higher end, East Coast restaurant chain) started by apologising for the negative outlook he was about to share. While wine sales look bright, Block says, there is strong competition in the east coast restaurant market from craft beers and spirits. Cocktails are considered ‘cool’ by the front line gatekeepers, restaurants’ servers. Many of them are in their 20s and find cocktails exciting, leading to recommendations in this beverage category. With beer, their seasonal offerings (i.e., summer blondes, spicy and nutty autumn brews) are particularly popular, giving that beverage segment an added boost. Plus, with each of these other categories, there is no need to learn vintages or worry about corked wines.
Is wine still cool?, Block asked employees across numerous Legal Sea Food restaurants. Those on the front line are not so sure. Staff comments from the survey show they believe:
- you need specialised knowledge to recommend wine
- wine is difficult to learn; a bother
- wine is a grown-up drink, not fun
- it is too expensive to learn about wine
On the other side of the table, surveys of guests by Legal Sea Foods show that diners want an experience they can’t easily duplicate at home. They believe anyone can buy a bottle of wine, but not everyone can make today’s fancy cocktails at home, so they order cocktails when they dine out.
The desire for experiences and entertainment by diners is a culinary trend that followed the market downturn in 2008, says Block. Before the crisis, the restaurant industry worked under the belief that restaurants existed to provide sustenance – great food and wine. Not anymore, he says. Restaurants are in the entertainment business. Key elements now include: socializing, interaction, and entertainment by staff.
Customers want memorable experiences; they want to watch their cocktails being created (all the better with a bit of theatric flair) in what Block calls ‘the new era of cooking table-side.’
In addition to visualising beverage creations, Block said guests are looking for stories, and conversations with the servers and other restaurant staff. They want ‘take-away’ snippets that they can later share with friends. The conversation can be as simple as a beverage recommendation, something to retell friends over the same drink at some future get-together.
Providing a few factual numbers, Block says that Americans currently eat one-half of their meals out of the home. The annual number of restaurant visits is 60.66. Chain restaurants are 73% of the total visits.
As shared by Block, the percentage of wine sold in restaurants as opposed to other beverages:
- 2007 51% by value, 23% by volume
- 2013 44% value of U.S. sales, 19% vol total U.S. sales
(Beverage Info Group, 2013)
Finishing with five-year tends garnered through sales at Legal Sea Foods, Block noted:
- Blandness is out – which means pinot grigio is out. Sales are down -22%
- Sauvignon Blanc is up 33%, and continuing to rise
- Chardonnay is down -6% and continuing to decline
- Merlot is down – 40%
- Shiraz is down -55%
- Malbec is up 59% but levelling off and showing some decline
- Pinot Noir is up 31% (deemed flavorful)
- Cabernet Sauvignon is up 22%
- Bubbles are up 42% and rising.
- Tasting flights are in.
- Half bottles are hot (note to producers: Legal Sea Foods would sell more if they could get more).
- When wine is displayed at the bar, wine orders go up; they are a conversation piece. Wines, not just spirits and liquors, sell more when they are visible.
- No one seems to be excited about wine on tap – there is no conversation about it, good or bad. Consumers are looking for quality and natural products; they don’t care how it comes.
- Don’t brand push; people hate it. Memorable stories will stick.
- Winemaker dinners remain popular, despite the negative outlook on wine in general; meeting a winemaker is still a big draw for consumers as it gives them a great story to tell.
- All about ‘authentic, natural’ – consumers want natural beverages