Apothic coffee: Is it any wonder I worry about the future of wine?

Apothic coffeeApothic coffee might reach a younger audience, but how will coffee-flavored wine save the wine business from itself?

The marketers at E&J Gallo are geniuses, turning brands like Barefoot and the sweet red Apothic into massive national best sellers without one lick of support from the traditional wine media. So why would Gallo come up with an Apothic coffee product, called Apothic Brew, “a taste that captures the smooth mouthfeel and velvety chocolate notes of cold brew with the juicy blackberry characteristics of a dark red wine“?

Because if the Gallo marketers think the wine business needs Apothic coffee, and it knows the wine business better than anyone, we’re doomed.

Regular visitors here know that wine is facing conditions it hasn’t seen since the 1980s – flat consumption, rising prices, reduced quality, and the tail end of the Baby Boom that powered those 30 years of growth. Plus, the two generations younger than the Boomers have shown no indication of picking up the slack.

Hence all sorts of attempts to bring wine to Generation X and the Millennials, including virtual reality labels. That’s probably where Apothic Brew fits in, a product for younger consumers who think wine is snobby and too geeky. But if even Gallo, the world’s biggest wine company with almost $5 billion in revenue, has to resort to a wine and coffee blend to reach younger consumers, we’re doomed.

Because isn’t Apothic coffee just Red Bull in a bottle with a cork? This is not a value judgment on the product; I don’t do that. Drink it if you want, and enjoy it. But how is a boozy energy drink going to help the wine business out of its doldrums? Wouldn’t fairly priced quality wine, closed with a screwcap, deliver better results?

Because if Apothic coffee is the future of wine, we’re doomed.

5 thoughts on “Apothic coffee: Is it any wonder I worry about the future of wine?

  • By Bob Rossi -

    Many years ago I went to a wine tasting and tried a wine called “The Bean,” which I believe was from South Africa. I was told that it had coffee overtones, but when I tasted it, it had more than just “overtones.” I thought it was dreadful, and I later found out that actual coffee beans were used to get that taste (I should have realized that). It looks like the Apothic goes even further. I hope it’s a failure, but I have my doubts.

  • By thecuttingedge -

    Could the reason that wine doesn’t appeal to people be that the people that appeal to wine (as it’s currently marketed) don’t appeal to other people?

  • By Grapeandgrain -

    Thecuttingedge may on to something. I have a character flaw; I do not like “holier-than-thou” people with a snoot full of rarefied atmosphere telling me what I should like, buy, think or even appreciate when it comes to wine; generally defined as critics. Further, I kind-of do not like people who absorb some of those attributes trying to present some casually acquired (via gang-bang tastings) intellect about wine. Yes, food tastes, when it comes to good, bade and ugly, is something acquired through experience and culture. So, we all can have an opinion about coffee flavor in wine; whatever blows one’s hair back is how a person decides to spend their money on wine. In the final analysis, it is all about commerce and what will sell. (At some point someone decide that the incandescent light bulb could be changed.) Gallo will succeed or fail based upon the collective vote from those that really matters–the consumer. I don’t buy hula hoops anymore either, but might try coffee wine. I don’t like coffee and I am a wine purist, Don’t like screwcaps either or plastic plugs trying to replace cork.

  • By Bob Henry -

    Gallo is trying to expand the core of U.S. wine drinkers beyond the 16%.

    That is one very difficult marketing proposition. There is a compelling reason “why” that base is only 16% and not larger: infrequent drinkers and non-drinkers don’t consume more because of low income constraints, or religious prohibition, or health considerations.

    No marketing campaign that overcome those impediments.

    Excerpts from WineBusiness.com
    (May 12, 2010, 2012):

    “The Market for Fine Wine in the United States”

    [Fine Wine 2010 Conference in Ribera del Duero (Spain)]

    Link: http://www.winebusiness.com/news/?go=getArticle&dataid=73903

    By Graham Holter
    Associate Director – Publishing
    Wine Intelligence market research firm (United Kingdom)

    . . .

    According to the data presented by [David] Francke [managing director of California’s Folio Fine Wine Partners], US wine drinking is compressed into a small segment of the population.

    SIXTEEN PERCENT OF CORE WINE DRINKERS consume wine once a week or more frequently, which ACCOUNTS FOR AROUND 96 PERCENT OF CONSUMPTION. Thirty-five million adults drink virtually all of the wine sold in America, Francke said.

    [Bob’s aside: Corresponds with the “80-20 Rule of Marketing” — 80% of your sales revenue comes from 20% of your customer base. For those interested in this observed phenomenon, Google these keywords: “Pareto principle” and “Joseph Juran.”]

    . . .

    Wine Intelligence has studied the US wine market in detail and categorised the wine drinking population — which it measures at 47 million — into profile groups. Two of these segments – “Millennial Treaters” and “Experienced Explorers” — were introduced to conference delegates by Erica Donoho, Wine Intelligence’s country manager for the USA.

    “Millennial Treaters,” she said, represent just 6 percent of wine drinkers, but they account for 13 percent of market value.

    “They’re a young group, under 30, and they’re exciting market players to look at,” she said. “Wine was introduced to them at a young age and it’s something they’re embracing wholeheartedly. When we ask them lots of questions, one theme that keeps coming up is there’s a pressure — especially among the men in this group — to know more about wine. They’re receptive to information; they want to be marketed to with some instruction.

    “They’re really interested in sharing knowledge with friends and family, and it’s an amazing way to target this group. They want to share their experience and their knowledge.

    “The social etiquette of wine choosing is becoming increasingly important.”

    Typically, such consumers will use the varietal as a major buying cue, but two thirds of them are also influenced by country or region of origin.

    [Bob’s aside: The article goes on to discuss “Experienced Explorers,” which as a demographic group accounts for 17 percent of the wine drinking population and 33 percent of the market value.]

  • By Elle Woods -

    The target audience of something like Apothic Brew and the target audience of traditional wines that stereotype the category are very different, so I’m not sure that I follow the logic that the wine category is doomed because products are being launched that allow new wine drinkers to feel more comfortable and interested in drinking wine (especially since theoretically those new wine drinkers will eventually “age up” into traditional wine, thereby expanding the category in the area that the author values). In any case, Apothic Brew does not have caffeine in it – if you ask them they will tell you that at most it is equivalent to a cup of decaf – so probably not a valid comparison to put it up against boozy energy drinks. Also, regarding the suggestion to simply introduce more “fairly priced quality wine, closed with a screwcap” as a different way to entice younger consumers – have you seen the wine aisle lately???

    Just my two cents – I appreciate the author’s willingness to take a stand and put forth an opinion; I personally just disagree for the aforementioned reasons.

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