Much has changed in the wine and spirits game this year. Millennials are constantly being accused of killing everything from napkin use to drinks consumption. Regular retailers are taking on the fierce battle with chains like Total Wine & More and hard seltzer is tearing up the market.
Eco-friendly and portable wines are seeing success right and left. In the meantime, natural wines continue to attract attention and artificial intelligence is transforming the wine business: have you checked out a bottle of 19 Crimes recently?
I recently spoke to Paul Mabray, the CEO of the Napa-based emetry.io—a consumer insight service for the wine industry—who reflected on what has happened previously in the wine and spirits world and what may lie ahead.
Liza B. Zimmerman (LBZ): Why are hard seltzers so popular?
LBZ: Do mixologists matter as much as they did in the past?
PM: Spirit brands are and always will be built by mixologists. They are even more important than ever due to the growing variety of craft spirits.
LBZ: What types of grape varietals are hot and why?
PM: I think we are going to see more and more blends emerging over the next few years. The lower tier understands that non-appellated wine sells and they can create wines that meet consumers’ expectations. This has also been true for even higher-priced wines such as The Prisoner.
LBZ: How is global warming changing the wine production map?
PM: Without question it is making it harder to make traditional styles of wine in known regions. At the same time, it allows new regions to emerge, such as English sparkling wine. The one thing that the wine industry is in touch with is the land and really embracing climate change. It will look hard to find the answers to make new ways to grow traditional grapes or adopt new varieties. It’s both an exciting and scary time.
LBZ: Are consumers spending more or less on wine and why?
PM: There is no question we are still in an era of premiumization. It’s slowing and is susceptible to a recession. The question is where is the new floor for “fine wine,” where is the median and where is the top?
LBZ: What is happening with rosé? Up, down or out of play?
PM: Rosé is flooded and experiencing an implosion with some brands. Fundamentally it is now a permanent category in the U.S. market.
LBZ: Will this focus on natural wines last?
PM: It will continue as long as wine writers give the category disproportionate amounts of attention versus the levels of actual consumer interest.
LBZ: Will vegan wines ever become a trend?
PM: We don’t see it in the numbers. Not that there isn’t a market, just that it’s a rounding error.
LBZ: Will interstate shipping actually happen as a result of the recent Supreme Court case? If so how will it affect wine pricing and availability?
PM: The golden age of direct-to-consumer (DTC) shipping will emerge when retailers are able to ship from state to state. The price of wine and availability will be unprecedented in U.S. history.
LBZ: How are artificial reality (AR) and artificial intelligence (AI) affecting the wine and spirits retail market and tasting experiences?
PM: We are seeing large adoption of artificial reality but not enough usage to turn it from a novelty into long-term customer relationships and engagement. It is still the most exciting POP [point of purchase] tool that we’ve seen in decades and I expect to see a lot of innovation in this area.
There are so many new uses of artificial intelligence (AI) for predicting sales trends, to analyzing flavor profiles, to consumer profiling emerging in 2019 and 2020. So many of the larger producers and retailers are using AI to understand the market, that sales and marketing are going to get more interesting and precise.
Source: Spirits Trends In The Year Ahead