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Impact Databank Exclusive: U.S. Wine Market Rises 1.5% In 2013

January 16, 2014

The U.S. wine market continued its long-term growth streak in 2013, as a solid off-premise performance offset tougher conditions in the on-premise. The market added nearly 5 million cases over the past year, according to Impact Databank. Overall growth slowed slightly to 1.5% in 2013, from 1.7% a year earlier, with volume hitting 328.7 million nine-liter cases, compared with 323.9 million cases in 2012. That advance caps a decade in which the U.S. wine market expanded by more than 25% from a sizeable base, despite contending with the recession of 2008-2009 and its lingering impact.

The deceleration over the past two years (growth was at 3.5% as recently as 2011) appeared to stem mainly from a still-sluggish on-trade environment. On-premise research firm Guest Metrics has pegged total U.S. on-premise wine volume as declining 1% in calendar 2013, including a 2% decrease in the fourth quarter. Restaurant Sciences data, meanwhile, shows on-premise wine sales down an aggregate 2.6% from last May through October, with particular softness in the bar/nightclub segment, which fell 18%. An aggregate 0.7% increase in the full-service restaurant sector—including marked gains in the family dining, upscale casual and white tablecloth segments—wasn’t enough to offset bars’ and nightclubs’ considerable decline.

“Restaurants have been pruning down their wine lists,” J. Lohr CEO Steve Lohr told SND late last year, adding that while some parts of the country, mostly along the coasts, are seeing better economic conditions—with the white tablecloth segment in California again growing swiftly—others aren’t there yet.

While the on-premise continues to struggle, off-premise wine sales remain firmly on the rise. According to IRI scan data, total table wine enjoyed a 2.4% increase in off-premise volume and a 5.9% jump in dollar sales during 2013. Domestic table wines, up 3.4% by volume and 7.2% by value, far outperformed imports, which slipped 2.3% by volume and eked out a 1.2% value gain. Along with California, whose results mirrored the overall domestic market, Washington wines—up 6% by volume and 8.6% by value—were among table wine’s growth drivers. On the import side, New Zealand soared 21% by volume, while Argentina rose 5.5% and Spain increased 2.6%. Import leader Italy was roughly flat, while Australia (-6.5%), Chile (-4.5%), France (-1.5%) and Germany (-11%) lost ground.

Sparkling wine continued to be among the hottest segments of the drinks market in 2013. Its off-premise volume progressed by 9.4%, led by an 8% gain for domestic sparklers and a 16% leap for Italy, driven by the explosion of Prosecco.

“There’s a feeling that things are generally good in the wine industry, but no one is jumping for joy,” California negoçiant Cameron Hughes recently told SND. “The business is fine, it’s growing, but it hasn’t been a frothy, exciting time in the market. We’re hoping (2014) will be.”

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