Winebits 623: Baby Boomers and wine, three-tier, hard seltzer

baby boomers

“Maybe I should buy some White Claw instead?”

This week’s wine news: A warning for those depending on the Baby Boomers to rescue the wine business, plus Total Wine appeals to the Supreme Court, and hard seltzer outsells vodka

Pointed language: How is this for telling the wine business what’s what? “So if your wine clubs are full of people between the ages of 55 and 75, and you’re just trying to grind those guys to death in the last few years, be thinking about that transition.” That’s the blunt warning from a top wine analyst, speaking at a recent wine trade show. Robert Eyler told his audience that the wine business has not been able to convince Millennials to drink wine. Hence, given the aging of the Baby Boomers, who still support the market, the wine business could be in big trouble.

Bring on the Supremes: Retailer Total Wine, struck down in Connecticut for challenging the state’s minimum pricing law, will appeal to the Supreme Court. This case, if accepted by the court, has the potential to further upset three-tier following this summer’s Tennessee retailer decision. Total is arguing that Connecticut’s pricing laws are no different from an illegal price-fixing conspiracy, since everyone knows the prices ahead of time and no one can deviate them from them.

Still growing: Hard seltzer, those cheap, easy to drink, low alcohol products like Truly and White Claw, account for some 2.6 percent of the U.S. booze market – more than vodka, the best-selling spirit. That’s triple the share from a year ago, according to a recent report. That works out to about 82 million cases – almost 10 times the amount of Barefoot sold in 2018, which is the top selling U.S. wine brand.

4 thoughts on “Winebits 623: Baby Boomers and wine, three-tier, hard seltzer

  • By AC - Reply

    So, give it to me straight – more hard seltzer is manufactured and sold in the US than all of the natural wine produced in the world?

    • By Wine Curmudgeon - Reply

      That’a fine question, and points to one of the many challenges facing the wine world.

  • By WineGeek - Reply

    I think saying that hard seltzer is outpacing vodka is trying to compare apples and oranges. Sure in liquid quantity there might be more hard seltzer produced than vodka, but isn’t a more accurate comparison hard seltzer and beer? Hard seltzer is a beer competitor (or even soda) alcohol wise as well as consumption wise.

    The wine business does need to get its house in order. We need to market to the consumers that are coming along as well as those that are passing out of their prime consumption years. The goal should be to build appreciation and consumption in the next wave of consumers. Premiumization (or whatever you want to call the price gouging the term signifies) is not a solution to broadening our base of consumers. This phenomenon of raising prices while inventory of unsold wine keeps increasing to show that our wine is better than the next producers is a major mistake as each time we cross a pricing barrier i.e. $9.99 to $10.00 or $14.99 to $15.00 we reduce our potential consumer base. I don’t advocate losing margin but I do find short sighted price increases because we are going to make up for lost profit by just raising prices rather than innovative and aggressive marketing to increase volume.

    That’s my 2 cents

    • By Wine Curmudgeon - Reply

      I agree about the apples to apples, and made that point with someone who asked me about the numbers. Plus a case of vodka, given pricing, isn’t exactly the same as a care of hard seltzer.

      But what matters is that people may be buying hard seltzer instead of vodka. That we won’t know for a couple of years.

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