> Seminar in Spain: I am back from giving a seminar (Curso Experto en Marketing del Vino) in Laguardia. A great group of students, already active in the wine business, and hopefully we generated some interesting ideas for marketing in various countries. Rioja Alavesa and nearby sections in Euskadi offer a great diversity of wine tourism experiences, laced with local history and topography. They included a mini-museum in an old wine cellar with extraordinary artifacts spanning BC to early 1900s, mainly excavated from old local cellars and vineyards (Valdelana). an atmospheric recreation of pre-phylloxera Rioja both visually and vinously (Fabulista); a cleverly re-engineered old co-op winery (Amaren); and a visionary melding of nature, terroir and culture at Itsasmendi. The latter vastly expanded my notion of Txakoli wine’s potential, while the Rioja continued to show why it’s one of the wine world’s best values at the mid-high end.
> The UC Davis OIV Wine Marketing course successfully completed its 29th year. In my admittedly biased opinion, this is the most practical crash course in learning how to market and sell wine in the U.S. It covers all states of the journey from brand conception and packaging to wholesale and channel management to fact-based selling and managing media. It was the biggest class in years – and included a new perspective provided by our first Spanish contingent from the UCD-Camara de Alava alliance. If interested, learn more here.
> Yet more thoughts on wine region tourism: Research has shown that the vast majority of wine club membership and website purchases trace back to a visit. But we’ve seen a flurry of recent press on declining visits or sales PER WINERY. This despite the fact that in most areas, tourism indicators such as traffic and hotel occupancy are up. Essentially, the numerator (visitors) increased more slowly than the denominator (# wineries). Some other analysts have pointed to wineries offering slower and more elaborate tastings. One interesting factor emerging in our recent research is the divide between local and out-of-region visitors. At Full Glass Research we have worked to improve winery visitation and DtC with a wide range of clients, from individual wineries up to regional organizations and the Wine Institute. If you are involved in regional planning and promotion, dependent on visitor sales, or interested in the economic or academic aspects of this topic, I’d be happy to answer your questions.
> Zigzagging Zinfandel, deciphering cider: You wouldn’t think these two had much in common, but they share a curious marketing phenomenon. Both of them contain sub-categories that are headed in opposite directions, and in both cases total category trends may be misleading. Low-priced and big brand Zinfandel continues to decay in large chains, but direct-to-consumer sales at higher prices have shown robust growth for several years. The weakening market for inexpensive big brand hard cider has been a news story for a while, but both Nielsen and USACM data show smaller producers at higher prices doing well overall. Is it trading up or different consumer segments? Zin-focused wineries and cider-makers would do well to answer that question.
> Cheese, Grommit! You don’t have to be an Aardman Animation fan to be fascinated by the world of fine cheese. The high end of the cheese business, with its artisanal producers and huge variety of flavor, is very reminiscent of the wine industry. But as we discovered in consumer research for the Oregon Cheese Guild, there are some tricky differences too. The whole issue of how cheese is merchandised at retail has layers of complexity that make the wine aisle seem simple, with interesting trade-offs between visibility, packaging and graphics. Not only that, but there are strange variations in perceived value whether priced by pound or piece. Based on feedback from retailers and producers, there hasn’t been much research in the gourmet cheese category. If you’re out there and curious, or know of someone else doing this, let’s talk!
“Facts don’t come with points of view, facts don’t do what I want them to….”