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As Prosecco Pushes Past 4-Million-Case Mark, Marketers Aim For Trade-Up

June 24, 2016

While sparkling wine is showing impressive growth across the board, Prosecco is the category’s star, having posted an expansion that’s been nothing short of phenomenal in recent years.

In 2015, Prosecco reached new heights, surpassing the 4-million-case threshold on 22.6% growth, according to Impact Databank. In the past two years, Prosecco has advanced by nearly 1.5 million cases—meaning that its incremental gain has nearly matched overall Champagne volume in the U.S.

“What’s most exciting about Prosecco’s growth is its consistency,” says Marc Taub, president and CEO of Palm Bay International, which markets Lunetta, one of the category leaders. “We’re seeing a month-in, month-out amplification of the business.” Earlier this year, Palm Bay extended its fast-rising Roscato brand—like portfoliomate Lunetta, an Impact “Hot Brand”—with a Prosecco, as well as two other sparklers: a Moscato and a sweet red.

Less than a decade ago, Prosecco was essentially an afterthought in the U.S. market, selling less than 500,000 cases annually. Now, several of the category’s top players surpass the half-million-case mark on their own, including La Marca, Mionetto and Cupcake (whose sparkling range also includes a small percentage of non-Prosecco offerings). These brands—as well as other popular entries like Zonin, Lunetta and Ruffino—all enjoyed double-digit growth both in 2014 and 2015. And all are priced in the U.S. wine market’s “sweet spot” of $10-$15 a 750-ml.

For all of Prosecco’s remarkable success, marketers are still in the very early stages of trying to trade up U.S. consumers within the category. Prosecco is still widely viewed as an under-$15 proposition. While Prosecco is now at well more than double Champagne’s volume, Champagne still rings up more retail dollars than its Italian rival. Still, there’s evidence that premiumization is occurring in Prosecco. Though DOC Prosecco continues to dominate sales in the U.S., the more exclusive DOCG variety is making inroads, with its share on the rise.

Palm Bay is also looking upscale with its Trento DOC sparklers Ferrari and Altemasi, both priced in the $25-and-up tier. “Ferrari and Altemasi are seeding the market with an opportunity to trade up from Prosecco to metodo classico,” says Taub. —Peter Zwiebach

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