Making the Most of the Wine Boom

June 3, 2020

Help independent wineries take advantage of the COVID sales surge

By Jim Dudlicek, NGA Director of Communications and External Affairs

With most bars still closed due to the pandemic, grocers’ spirits are soaring – sales of spirits, that is. Beer and liquor, and especially wine, have been selling well as folks continue to shelter in place.

In fact, wine sales were up 38% in dollars and 32% in units for the 10 weeks ending May 2, according to recent Catalina shopper data. Dollars and units per buyer are up as well, and nearly half of wine buyers are repeat purchasers, up from two-thirds a year ago.

Independent grocers are particularly adept at serving the oenophiles among their shoppers, with highly curated selections, tasting events (currently curtailed due to the pandemic) and relationships with local winemakers.

But what about wineries with little or no retail presence? Many small winemakers rely on their own tasting rooms or local restaurants to expose their brands to the public. While major wine producers with retail shelf space are poised to cash in, according to a recent Wall Street Journal article, scores of others expect to see major losses due to coronavirus-related restrictions on their main avenues to market.

Here’s where independent grocers are well positioned to help. Some grocers are already partnering with restaurants to sell signature dishes; why not extend this idea to winemakers who might not yet be at retail?

Reach out to those small, independent winemakers in your region, the ones getting great word of mouth in the local wine community but that haven’t quite made it onto your shelves. Enrich your own offerings and further demonstrate your value to your loyal wine customers, while also supporting these struggling operators during these current challenging times. Maybe there’s a chance to partner with these wineries’ restaurant partners, too.

Some additional benefits: Wine basket sizes are up 4%, according to the Catalina study; and alcohol ecommerce has more than doubled since a year ago, Nielsen reports, with wine making up nearly 70% of total online retail sales.