In 2013, the US maintained its position as the world’s top wine consumer as table wine consumption grew for the 20th consecutive year, according to the Beverage Information Group. An estimated 297 million cases of table wine were consumed, up 1.6% from the prior year. According to John Gillespie, President of the Wine Market Council, which studies US consumer wine trends, increases in wine consumption are mainly being driven by people who are already wine drinkers tending to increase their wine consumption year over year. “Key to increased consumption is the adoption of wine drinking in fairly early stages of adulthood by the Millennial generation (20–37-year-olds). Although members of Generation X (38–49-year-olds) did not adopt wine to a great degree in their twenties, they are really stepping up wine consumption as they get into their middle and later thirties and early forties,” notes Mr. Gillespie. Approximately 101 million US adults drink wine.
The Wine Market Council conducted a study of individuals who drink wine at least once a week, a group it calls “High Frequency Wine Consumers,” to gain insight into their demographics and behavior patterns. It found that they make up 34% of the wine drinking population and that 50% are female and 50% are male. The largest group of High Frequency Wine Consumers are Baby Boomers (50–68-year-olds) (43%), followed by Millennials (20–37-year-olds) (24%), Generation Xers (38–49-year-olds) (19%), and members of the Swing/WWII generations (69 and older) (14%). “High Frequency Wine Consumers are truly ‘involved’ wine consumers, for whom wine is an important part of how they live and how they entertain,” states Mr. Gillespie. “There are a few things that set High Frequency Wine Consumers apart from others. One is that, while they buy wine at all price points, they are nearly the only wine drinkers who buy wines over $20 at retail with any real frequency (about one in three of them buy these wines monthly or more often). They also tend to buy more imported wines than lower frequency wine drinkers.”
According to Mr. Gillespie, “High End Wine Buyers,” individuals who buy wines costing more than $20 at retail at least monthly or more often, are another group of particular importance to the wine industry. In its 2013 study, the Wine Market Council found that they account for about 90% of the sales of all wines over $20, and they also account for about 40% of all wine sales between $10 and $20. “From a dollar value standpoint, they are easily the most important segment of wine drinkers to the wine industry,” he observed.
In 2013, wine continued to grow faster than most other consumer packaged goods categories, with off-premise sales growth (e.g. grocery stores, mass merchandisers, liquor stores, etc.) continuing to outpace on-premise sales growth (e.g. bars, restaurants, etc.), according to Danny Brager, Senior Vice President of Nielsen’s Beverage Alcohol Practice Area. Major factors driving category growth include the improving economy, increased distribution and increased purchases by Millennials. “As the economy continues to improve, consumers have continued to trade up—buying more expensive wines. Furthermore, consumers can find wine in more places than ever before, at all ends of the retailing spectrum, and Direct to Consumer and online wine retailing are an additional growth driver beyond ‘brick and mortar’ wine sales,” he observed. Varietals which were growth “winners” include Cabernet Sauvignon, Pinot Grigio/Gris, Pinot Noir, Moscato, Sauvignon Blanc and Malbec. Wine blends also experienced significant growth.
The average price of a bottle of wine continued to increase in 2013. “About 70% of the increase in the average price paid for a bottle of wine was more due to consumers ‘trading up’ from a less expensive bottle of wine to a more expensive one. The remaining portion would be attributable to price increases, but most of those were at the ‘lower’ (<$3) and ‘higher’ (>$15) ends of the category, and not in the middle,” notes Mr. Brager.
Clearly US wine consumption trends are very positive, and there is a bright future ahead for the wine industry. Cheers!