SANTA ROSA, Calif. — Thirsty Americans polished off 297 million cases of table wine last year, according to the Wine Market Council’s annual report on U.S. Wine Consumer Trends.
“This was 1.5 million more cases than the previous year,” council president John Gillespie told a packed audience here. “However, there was sluggish growth.”
The Wine Market Council is a non-profit association of grape growers, wine producers, imports, wholesalers and other affiliated businesses and organizations. Its mission is to grow, strengthen and stabilize the wine market in the United States.
Of the 2,000 people who participated in the survey, 66 percent categorized themselves as occasional drinkers while 34 percent said they are “high frequency” drinkers, meaning that they drink wine daily or several times a week.
Budget wines — those priced at less than $10 a bottle — attracted 47 percent of buyers. High-end wines — priced at more than $20 a bottle — attracted 30 percent of buyers, and box wines attracted 23 percent of buyers.
“Women drank more wine occasionally than men but an equal number of men and women were frequent wine drinkers,” Gillespie said.
Generations had marked differences in their wine drinking patterns and consumption. Here is the breakdown:
WWII (82 and over) 12 million; Swing (69-81) 30 million; Boomer (50-68) 44 million; Generation X (38-49) 44 million; and Millennial (20-37) 70 million.
“The survey noted that Boomers rank first in high frequency wine consumption and Millennials drink more high-end wine,” Gillespie said. “Older Americans drink more wine at home compared to Millennials who consume more wine at a bar or restaurant.”
California ranks No. 1 in wine purchases, followed by Washington and Oregon.
Danny Brager, senior vice president of Nielsen’s Beverage Alcohol Practice Area, said the forecast for wine was “sunny but be wary of clouds.”
“Nielsen watches what people watch and buy,” he said. “Wine growth continues faster than beer and most other consumer packaged goods categories. Wine blends are a significant driving force and buyers tell us it is very important to know specific varieties/types of wine inside the package.”
Consumers also reported that wine blends are a great way to experiment with wine, are more interesting than wine from a single variety and are better values.
The audience was surprised when Brager asked, “What does the figure 522,420 represent?”
“The answer is the number of wine selling locations in the United States,” he said. “This is 62,000 more than five years ago. For the first time the number of chain outlets exceeded independents.”
Red wines are growing faster than whites with blush trailing; but improving bolstered by rose wines. Malbec had the biggest gain. Sparkling and sweet wine sales are up as Prosecco and Moscato led the way. Sales of 3-liter box wines are soaring.
Brager touched on the spirits category, stating that flavored vodkas have lost some of their hot popularity of last year.
Although the craft beer category is growing it doesn’t impact table wine sales. Consumer who bought wine also spent more at grocery stores, he said. Grocery baskets without wine average around $47 compared with $75 with a wine purchase.
“Although the Boomers and Millennials have big wine numbers, seniors should not be ignored,” he said. “They have consistent buying power and continue to live longer,” he said.