Despite Recession, Wine Consumption Up in 2008

    A slumping economy. Sales declining. Restaurants suffering. Consumer confidence at an all-time low.

     Despite a troubling recession, a report issued by the Wine Market Council identifies positive and promising trends for the wine business in the year ahead.

     The good news, says John Gillespie, president of the industry-sponsored group, is that consumption has increased for the 15th consecutive year. While the figures for 2008 are not complete, Gillespie estimates the market at 300 million cases, moving the United States past Italy and into second rank behind France in total wine consumption.

     “Even with modest growth in 2008,” he notes, “we calculate consumption at three gallons per capita.”

     According to Wine Business, wine sales showed only a 1.5 percent gain in the past year against an earlier projection of 2.1 percent. But Gillespie stressed that the increase was still higher than during the last recession year, 2001, when sales increased by only 1.3 percent. In 1993, the most recent year for a declining market, sales fell nearly 3 percent.

     The study by Wine Market Council found consumers cutting their spending, dining out less frequently and drinking less — all of this contributing to the declining rate of wine consumption. In surveys taken in the closing months of 2008, nearly three out of five respondents said their personal financial situation was worse than the previous year.

     On the positive side, two-thirds of those surveyed reported spending the same amount per bottle for wine, against 15 percent who said they were spending less. In restaurants during the final months of 2008, 7 percent said they ordered fewer bottles of wine, 23 percent ordered fewer glasses of wine, and 43 percent said their orders had remained the same.

     Core wine drinkers (people who drink wine at least once a week) made up 16 percent of survey respondents, but accounted for 91 percent of wine consumption. “Marginals” (those consuming a minimum of one glass of wine per month) comprised 15 percent of those surveyed, and added 9 percent of total volume. Nearly 44 percent of the population does not drink, and about one out of four people enjoys beer and spirits, but not wine.

     Since 2000, the report shows that the number of core wine drinkers has appreciated by 60 percent, while the marginal drinking group has plateaued, and consumption among those who drink only beer or spirits (but not wine) is now 21 percent less than it was eight years ago.

     Men outnumber women, 52-48 percent, in the core wine group. Almost 20 percent of male wine drinkers reported drinking more wine in 2008, against a net gain of 14 percent among females.

     Tomorrow: The most positive trend in the report.

Posted in The Wine Business
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