Winebits 354: Costco wine, wine demographics, wine and drugs

costco wine
Annette Alvarez-Peters

? Costco’s Peters speaks: Annette Alvarez-Peters, who buys alcohol for the Costco warehouse chain, is one of the most important people in the wine business; as such, she rarely gives interviews. Hence my surprise at an interview with the Shanken News Daily trade news service, even thought it’s short and Alvarez-Peters doesn’t say all that much. What’s worth noting is how much of its private label wine Costco sells; its Kirkland pinot grigio and cabernet sauvignon are two of the chain’s biggest sellers, both at less than $10 a bottle. That consumers will drive to Costco just to buy its wines is mind-boggling in the day of the Great Wall of Wine. Most retailers would kill for that kind of loyalty, which they’d have to do because they don’t know how to get it any other way. The other reason to mention this? Because a Costco piece that ran on the blog in 2012 is the second most popular post , based on one-day visitors, in blog history. Shoppers don’t just want to go Costco — they want to read about it.

? Who drinks wine? The Wine Market Council has updated some of its numbers, and the results are intriguing. If you’re a high-frequency wine drinker (you drink wine at least once a week), you’re more likely to be married than if you drink wine less than once a week, the occasional wine drinker. High frequency wine drinkers are older, 51-44, than occasionals, but it’s not like either of them is young. The latter makes perfect sense given the wine business’ inability to understand it should try to sell wine to people other than old white guys. Note to advertisers: the blog’s demographics skew younger than that, no doubt because I write about wine that younger people can afford.

? Examine that spending: The British spend about 1 billion (about US$1.6 billion) more on illegal drugs and sex each year than they do on wine and beer, according to a just-released UK government study. That works out to about 260 (US$422) per adult. I don’t know whether that’s a lot of money for dope and whores, but I think the numbers are a little dicey. The average adult in the U.S. spends about $150 a year on wine (based on 242 million adults and $36.3 billion in wine sales, per the Wine Institute) and $413 on beer (based on $100 billion in beer sales, per the Brewers Association). That a country with a pub culture spends less per capita than we do on beer and wine is hard to believe, which makes me think the drugs and sex number should be higher. By comparison, I spend nothing on the latter and some US$2,500 (about 1,500) annually on wine, which doesn’t include other booze or restaurant wine purchases. I’ll let you draw your own conclusions about that.

2 thoughts on “Winebits 354: Costco wine, wine demographics, wine and drugs

  • By Gary millman -

    A lot of folks are critical of Costco wines but I find many are damn good. Problem with the “Kirkland” brand is that has zero marketing appeal — not exactly something you want to give as a gift, for example. Plus the wines are inconsistent. Some are excellent for the price; some are disappointing. You never know until you buy one, which is okay because they are usually inexpensive (or, as you would say, cheap).

    • By Wine Curmudgeon -

      I don’t think, from my experience with Costco, that they care one way or the other about respect. Kirkland may have replaced Kenmore as the world’s most trusted private label, and between that and the margins I have no doubt everyone at Costco is happy.

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