Event Insights: Global Wine Beer & Spirits  10/12/2015

This year’s Global Wine, Beer & Spirits event was jam-packed with activities, including a tour of a Bristol Farms store – hosted by its Wine Manager Teo Santocono, a presentation on social media’s impact on adult beverage branding, ECRM’s Annual Grand Tasting Awards, and a special appearance by world-renown chef Wolfgang Puck, who prepared appetizers during the Grand Tasting to pair with his four new varietals of Puck Wine, and sat for a video interview with Beverage Industry magazine.

During our event debriefings – one-on-one interviews of buyer and seller attendees by ECRM staff – several key trends were uncovered that are top-of-mind in the industry, some of which were succinctly summarized by one of the attendees interviewed: “We’re seeing a mix of one-third national brands, one-third treasure hunt wines, and one-third control labels in retail,” said the attendee. “Consumers are trading up from $8 bottles of wine to the $12-15 range. International wines are creating attention for control labels, with wines from the southern hemisphere gaining in popularity. Packaging is playing more of a role, particularly among millennials.”

Packaging innovation and new pack sizes are becoming more prevalent, including more styles of boxed wine, single-serve wine and tetra packs. Prepackaged cocktails, too are gaining in popularity among consumers, because of their convenience and simplicity. Novelty packaging is particularly a hit with Millennials, who are continuously looking to try new things, according to attendees. 

For on-premise, wine on tap at restaurants is trending up, as are non-returnable kegs, which unlike traditional kegs, don’t have to be recycled back to the brewer, simplifying supply chain issues, particularly in situations where the brewery and bar are a long distance from each other.

Pricing is seeing a lot of movement toward the extremes, with both value and premium products gaining in popularity across wine, beer and spirits categories. Imports at $9.99 to $14.99 price point are making a comeback, said one attendee.
Consumers are paying more for premium local beers, particularly for those in limited runs. Bristol Farm-owned Lazy Acres, for example, does a large craft business at its two locations, and some are as limited as one or two cases per store and sell out within hours. 

For wine and spirits, younger generations, particularly Millennials, are eager to try new premium blends, and are quick to share their experiences via social media. “Your brand must be authentic and have a story,” said one attendee. In some instances, retailers are taking control of these stories – while at the same time driving higher margins – with private label wines.

Digital Discussions
As Brad Nix mentioned during his session on social media, consumers are even more active than brands when it comes to online discussions around wine, beer, and spirits, and these conversations are driving interest in new flavors, particularly hybrids in wine and spirits. Red blends are popular, as are unique flavors among bourbons, whiskeys and creams. Sweet flavor profiles in general, which mask the alcohol flavor, are very popular among Millennials. Additionally, they are seeking more specialty drinks, including organic, gluten-free, kosher and vegan adult beverages.

Indeed, it’s this eagerness for exploring all things new and novel that creates a challenge for sellers looking to drive brand-loyalty, as their product may be the hot thing now, until a new product trending on Facebook steals customers away. Another challenge – particularly among smaller brands – is what more than one supplier referred to as the “Frito-ization” of the wine aisle. In other words, major wine brands dominating the space, making it difficult for niche brands to break into it. Other challenges noted by attendees include distribution, the rising cost of doing business, and the impact that the grocery mega-mergers (Safeway/Albertsons and Delhaize/Ahold) will have on the industry.

ECRM would like to know how you are addressing these challenges – you can tell us about it in the comments section below!

ECRM's Global Wine, Beer & Spirits Grand Tasting Award Winners
VIDEO: Q&A with Wolfgang Puck
Global Wine, Beer & Spirits and Social Media

Global Wine, Beer & Spirits: August 28 to 31, 2016 at Sheraton San Diego Hotel & Marina (San Diego, CA)
On-Premise Adult Beverage: November 6 to 8, 2016 at Westin Cape Coral Resort at Marina Village (Cape Coral, FL)

Joseph Tarnowski

VP Content

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