Wines & Vines Home
Welcome Guest

Wine's New Competition: Craft Beer

Experts urge wineries to stand their ground against rival in beverage sector

by Andrew Adams
Santa Rosa, Calif—Americans may be buying fewer 12-packs of mass-marketed light beer, but they are buying more six-packs of special-release IPA—and that could be at the expense of bottles of Cabernet.

Those who sell craft beer are also taking their cue from some of wine’s strongest selling points to earn a greater share of the market. “From a shelf space perspective, we need to hold our ground,” said Danny Brager, senior vice president of Nielsen’s Beverage Alcohol Practice Area. Brager’s comments came during the Wine Market Council’s annual presentation on U.S. wine consumer trends.

Brager said craft beer sales are up nearly 23% in volume and 20.6% in value, and in regions like San Francisco and Portland, Ore., craft beer has seen growth of 30% or more.

Those strong sales, however, can’t buoy the general beer market, which continues to decline at a slow rate. In 2002, 60% of Americans favored beer, 27% preferred spirits and 13% favored wine, Brager said. By 2013, beer had slipped to 51.1%; spirits rose to 33.7% and wine grew to more than 15%.

People who enjoy craft beer say it offers a broader selection of choices, and they view it as a local product that pairs well with food, according to John Gillespie, president of the Wine Market Council.

Based on survey information from the most active beverage buyers, Gillespie said 66% of high-frequency wine drinkers claim to have enjoyed craft beer, and 49% of those said they enjoyed several craft brews per week. Brager said Nielsen’s data show that 13% of shopping carts with wine also contain craft beer.

While the growth of craft spirits and beer should be of concern to wineries, Gillespie recalled the microbrew boom of the 1990s that prompted similar worries. “I don’t see it as a huge threat to the industry,” he said.

The “high-frequency wine drinker” is a term coined by the council to describe consumers who drive wine sales in the United States. Gillespie said these wine drinkers enjoy wine daily or several times a week as opposed to “occasional” wine drinkers who only imbibe once per week or less. The council estimates the number of high-frequency drinkers in the United States at 34 million and occasional drinkers at 67 million.

Of wine drinkers, about 30% are “high-end wine buyers” responsible for buying most of the wine priced higher than $20, but these buyers purchase wine across all segments. While they may be stocking the cellar with Harlan Estate and E. Guigal Cote Rotie, they also are buying everyday red wines from Trader Joe’s for $9.99.

Wine Club Survey
Gillespie also shared some results from a national survey of wine club members. He said they are split 54% female and 46% male; 57% are part of the baby boomer generation, while only 11% are millennials.

Most are members of clubs operated through wineries, and 76% said they became members after visiting a winery. The most important factors when considering wine club membership were discounts on wine, special tastings and access to special events.

Satisfaction is also fairly high, with 35% of members saying they were “extremely satisfied” and 49% reporting they were “very satisfied” with their memberships. More than half (51%) claim they plan to stay a member indefinitely. Only 5% said they planned to stay for about a year. When they did quit, those surveyed said were no longer enjoying the wine (24%), membership became too expensive (22%), or that the wines were no longer interesting (21%).

Wine consumption strong
Total wine sales in 2013 came to $14 billion in the off-premise sector, which accounted for 178 million cases, according to Nielsen’s numbers. The Beverage Information Group estimates total wine sold in the United States will reach 297 million cases per year, which is a 1.6% increase and continues a streak of 20 years with growing wine consumption, Gillespie said.

In the past two years, Brager said more than 5,000 new wine items have appeared on retail shelves. Of these, 30% are priced in the $9-$11.99 range, and the average price for wine has risen from $8.76 to more than $9 per bottle in 2013. This has pushed the total value of wine sales higher, yet volume has slowed in recent years. The top 10 wine brands account for 87% of wine’s total sales.

There are now 522,420 outlets selling wine on- and off-premise in the United States, Brager noted. He said the good news is consumers can now find wine almost everywhere, adding that the convenience store chain 7-11 is making a special push to sell premium wines from multiple price points at most of its locations.

In the e-commerce sector, however, wine continues to have to fight its way up-river. Michael Osborn, vice president of merchandising of, joined Brager and Gillespie on the panel and said American shoppers still buy far more shoes online than wine. “We have a lot of room to grow,” he said.

Osborn said 56% of the wine sold through the site is imported, and California wine accounts for 37% of’s sales. France holds the largest share of sales by import nations at 15%, followed by Spain (8%) and Italy (13%).

He said the site’s customers prefer red wine, which accounts for nearly 70% of all sales, and Cabernet Sauvignon is the most popular—although its share has dropped by about 10% as consumers appear to be trying a wider range of varieties and blends.

Osborn said sparkling wine represented 9% of’s sales. He said if retailers make a point of highlighting sparking wines throughout the year and not just during the holidays, consumers appear keen to buy it as an everyday wine.

When asked about how the site chooses its wines, Osborn said they seek brands with proven success in a particular market (such as restaurant or re tail accounts) and if the company can easily purchase and ship wine from a winery’s wholesaler. “We want to sell where there is demand,” he said.

Currently no comments posted for this article.

Wines & Vines Home
866.453.9701 | 415.453.9700 | Fax: 415.453.2517
65 Mitchell Blvd., Ste. A San Rafael, CA 94903
Wine Industry Metrics
Off-Premise Sales
IRI Channels »
Month   12 Months  
October 2015 $604 million
$8,267 million
October 2014 $572 million $7,790 million
Direct-to-Consumer Shipments » Month   12 Months  
October 2015 $288 million
$1,919 million
October 2014 $284 million $1,751 million
Winery Job Index » Month   12 Months  
October 2015 179
October 2014 139 226
MORE » Released on 11.13.2015


Direct To Consumer
Wine Shipping Report
Download full report »


Practical Winery & Vineyard Library
Search the PWV archive »

  • December 2
    2015 UC Davis Grape Day
  • December 3
    North Coast Wine Industry Expo
  • December 5-6
    Holidays in the Vineyards
  • January 13-14
    DtC Wine Symposium
  • MORE »

Article: Kronenberg Leaves Legacy of DtC Opportunities »
This is amusing. While I do not quarrel with Paul's many contributions over the years,...
Reader: Guest
Article: Kronenberg Leaves Legacy of DtC Opportunities »
Wow! This this a re-writing of history! As a founder and namer of Family Winemakers...
Reader: Guest
Article: Can Wine Grapes Be Grown Without Chemicals? »
It sounds like your problem is with semantics, not with the application of products to...
Reader: Carol Collier
Article: Cuvaison Upgrades to Second Generation of Pellenc Sorter »
I'd like to know what they are doing with the sorted stuff, especially the first...
Reader: Matthew Delicata
Article: Growers Suffer Low Yields in Paso Robles »
This year's Paso Robles/San Miguel "mature" Cabernet Sauvignon yields were down to 30% of normal while...
Reader: Guest

2016 Directory/Buyer's Guide
The Wines & Vines Directory and Buyer's Guide
Wines & Vines Magazine
Digital Edition Now Available!
Wines & Vines Digital Edition Now Available
The Wines & Vines Online Marketing System
The Industry Standard winery marketing application
Latest Job Listings
 Tasting Room Server/Wi...
 Temecula, CA
DTC, Tasting Room and Retai
 Sonoma, CA
 Cashier/Sales Associat...
 Napa, CA
DTC, Tasting Room and Retai
 Assistant Event Coordi...
 St. Helena, CA
DTC, Tasting Room and Retai
 Event Coordinator
 St. Helena, CA
DTC, Tasting Room and Retai
 Sales Associates Help-...
 Boston, MA
Sales and Marketing
 Northern California Re...
 San Francisco, CA
Sales and Marketing
 Sales Reprsentative
 Mid/Northern, NJ
Sales and Marketing
 National Chain Manager
 Miami, FL
Sales and Marketing
 Wine Sales Associate
 Fremont, CA
Sales and Marketing
More Job Listings >>
Follow Us On:

Home  |  About Us  |  Editors  |  Subscribe  |  Print Edition  |  Digital Edition

Advertise  |  Site Map  |  Contact Us  |  Privacy Policy
Copyright © 2001-2015 by Wine Communications Group, Inc. All Rights Reserved.
No material may be reproduced without written permission of the Publisher.
Wines&Vines does not assume any responsibility for any unsolicited manuscripts or materials.