I see a light, slim stranger …’

10 December, 2010

Consumers are continuing to look for lower alcohol content in wine, according to OLN’s straw poll of buyers and suppliers.

Stephen Loftus, director of innovation at Constellation Wines, says the success story of both Pinot Grigio and rosé wines has played a large part in the trend towards wines that are both lighter in style and lower in abv than “weightier white or red wines”.

“Couple this consumer taste trend with broader government pressure towards the reduction of alcoholic unit consumption and you’ll find lighter-style wines are only going to increase in popularity and are here to stay,” he says.

Sally Barlow, brand manager for Source Wines, adds:“It is evident across the market that customers are increasingly concerned about the alcohol content in wine. This certainly isn’t a new trend, but it does seem to be growing in importance to consumers when buying wine. More people are looking for wines under 12.5% rather than big blockbuster wines at 14%-15%.”?Loftus says: “Recent years have seen the introduction of early harvest wines of around 9% and, more recently, even lower alcohol wines of around 5.5% abv getting shelf space in major multiples.” Constellation launched its Echo Falls Spritz – a 4% abv single-serve spritzer with one unit of alcohol per 25cl bottle – to cash in on this lighter-style, lower-abv shift.

David Cartwright, sales director at PLB, also identifies this as an important change. He says: “We’re seeing a move away from higher alcohol levels towards more refreshing, lighter styles and lower alcohol. Lower alcohol sparkling at 5.5% abv is another big trend, benefiting from a duty break and becoming firmly cemented in the shopper’s repertoire.”?Cartwright puts this shift down to changes in people’s priorities over the years. “Social and cultural trends – such as greater health awareness and a greater consumer interest in food and drink and quality, freshly sourced ingredients – as well as a more receptive attitude to responsible drinking, are playing a key role in

encouraging the customer to think more about quality and taste. The next step on the low-alcohol trend is signposting this clearly to customers in store.”?Ethical concerns?Producers are taking a long, hard look at the ethical side of winemaking as consumers and retailers pay increasing attention to how wine is sourced, packaged and transported.

PLB’s Cartwright says: “PET is a hot agenda topic at the moment. The retailers are very focused on this as part of a broader environmental push – increasing technology is breaking the barriers here and current estimates are that, within the next two to three years, PET could represent 5% of all SKUs. Other environmentally aware products are also key here, for example a number of wineries are promoting carbon zero status and a greater emphasis on lightweight and recyclable packaging.

“A growing environmental concern and retailer responsibility to act on this will place more emphasis on the need for ethical, Fairtrade and sustainable products. As part of this there’ll be a focus on local produce too. Traceability is becoming more and more important, tradition and authenticity and shared values.”?Loftus says the wine category needs to catch up with different approaches already being taken on in other sectors.

He says: “There is a continued need for more packaging solutions for the category. There is a breadth of wine-drinking occasions but all too often we rely on the 75cl wine bottle to be a one-stop solution, whereas the spirits industry, for example, is much more innovative about packaging solutions for differing occasions.

“Much headway has already been made with the introduction of 50cl bottles, the proliferation of single-serve bottles and 2.25-litre wine boxes, but there is more work that can be done to move away from the industry’s reliance on the 75cl bottle.”?Fizz alternatives?Gail Gilbert, European sales and marketing director for Brown Brothers Wines Europe, points to a change in buying habits for fizz.

“A significant trend is the rising popularity of sparkling wines, which can be attributed to the increased quality of the category and its price point making it an attractive alternative to Champagne or cava.”?Brown Brothers has responded to this trend by expanding its sparkling range to include Cienna Rosso. Source Wines’ Barlow has also noticed a change in behaviour surrounding sparklers, but she puts it down to people watching the purse strings.

“Consumers are looking to lesser-known regions for better-value wines. For example, sales of Prosecco and other sparkling wines have been on the rise as buyers seek alternatives to Champagne.”




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