Women catch up with men in wine drinking stakes

Cape Town - Major shifts in the wine industry over the past 12 years include gender equity in terms of wine drinkers, according to Lulie Halstead, co-founder and CEO of Wine Intelligence.

She was one of the guest speakers at the annual Nedbank VinPro information day for the wine industry in Cape Town this week.

In most established markets about 50% of the wine drinking population now consist of women, she said. In 2010 two thirds of wine drinkers were men compared to 50% now. That is why wine should not be regarded as a gender focused product category, in her view.

Another shift is that wine drinkers as a population are increasingly getting older. The average age of a wine drinker is now over 50. In Germany 18% of regular wine drinkers are now older than 65 and in the US 40% are older than 55.

"The role of wine is pretty much universal. When we talk to consumers all over the world they say they see wine as a reward or a little treat – something they do to relax," she explained.

At the same time, in most countries, there is an expanding pool of wine drinkers and the number of moderation drinkers is increasing. Halstead calls this the "less but better" trend.

Globally, over the past 12 years, there has been a shift from mainstream varietals and an increase in preference for more niche and more local varietals unique to certain areas.

There has also been an increase in online purchasing. Nearly 50% of wine drinkers buy wine online, mostly from what they regard as a trusted source. For consumers it is all about trust and convenience.

"Rosé and Prosecco have been the big winners in the world the last number of years. About 50% of regular wine drinkers in Germany and the UK now drink rosé. It is not just for the ladies anymore," said Halstead.

As for Prosecco, she said for consumers it is all about flavour and price - bubbles for celebration and at a good price.

The future

The biggest determinant for a wine producer or brand's success over the next 12 years to 2030 will be brand awareness, emphasised Halstead.

The wine category is so vast and complex for consumers that it is hard for them to recognise and remember wine brands, research shows. There could be between 300 000 and 500 000 individual wine brands in the world, she estimates.

"Have a ‘rememberable’ name. Create memories with the broadest possible group. Wine tourism is the perfect conduit to create memories for consumers. Use the hospitality industry. Wine and food will make the memory stronger if it is associated with an active, positive experience," she said.

It is also important which channel or channels you select for distribution. Relying on just one or two accounts will not be enough in future, in her view.

Another factor to keep in mind is that consumers are increasingly holding producers accountable in terms of sustainability - including origin and packaging.

Wine producers would have to be increasingly adaptable.

"Consumers are no longer dedicated only to 'traditional wine'. They are more open to different products and services and they want more control," concluded Halstead.

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