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Wine By The Glass Sales Rise As Millennials Look To Experiment, Diversify Repertoire

April 24, 2013

High-end wine consumption in the on-premise isn’t as robust as it was in the pre-downturn days, but wine sales overall continue to rise in the channel—up 5.2% last year according to Technomic. Restaurateurs and wine marketers say the by-the-glass segment has created new opportunities for growth, particularly among younger consumers.

According to Winemetrics LLC, by-the-bottle wine listings in casual/upscale restaurants declined by 4% from 2009 to 2012, while by-the-glass listings increased by 6.5% in the same segment over the same time period.

“In wine, we’ve noticed a shift from bottles to by-the-glass,” says Helen Mackey, director of beverage strategy, Ruth’s Hospitality Group Inc. “That’s due to two things: One, there’s more experimentation in wine, so people are tending to try by-the-glass; and two, it’s an issue of consumers minding the ticket. It’s more attractive to get a smaller-ticket item when you’re already out enjoying an expensive meal.”

At the 65-unit Fleming’s Prime Steakhouse and Wine Bar, wines by-the-glass have always been a cornerstone of the wine program. Since the chain’s inception in 1998, it has featured the Fleming’s 100, a 100-offering by-the-glass list updated every September. “Exploration is higher than ever, especially with Millennials,” notes Maeve Pesquera, national director of wine, Fleming’s Prime Steakhouse and Wine Bar. “In the last two years, our focus on by-the-glass has been a critical advantage.” Divided by varietal, Fleming’s list includes 30 wines for $10 or under, underscoring consumer demand for both variety and value.

The Millennial demographic’s penchant for experimention has led to a surge in new product activity in the wine category, and marketers see openings for by-the-glass programs to help continue cultivating new audiences through the trial-friendly format. “Almost all the growth in wine is coming from new, innovative products. Red blends, for one, have changed the way Millennials look at wine. They’ve made it more approachable,” says Marc Goodrich, COO, Banfi Vintners. “One thing we’re involved in a little bit, and we’re waiting to see if it takes hold, is wine in kegs for the on-premise. It could be a very interesting way for the on-premise arena to provide a better by-the-glass experience.”

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