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Top Importers, Retailers Assess Prosecco Category’s Upside

December 18, 2019

While Prosecco is continuing its remarkable trajectory in the U.S., marketers and retailers are split on whether a tapering-off is at hand. “2018 was a bit soft, but still nice because we were up 15%,” says Enore Ceola, CEO and president of Freixenet Mionetto USA whose Mionetto label is the U.S. market’s second-largest Prosecco brand behind E. & J. Gallo-owned La Marca. “But compared to previous years, when we hit 20%-25%, it felt soft.” This year, Ceola adds, growth is around 16%-18%—not bad considering that shipments of all Proseccos in the U.S. have ballooned to around 7 million cases. La Marca leads the market at more than 1.5 million cases, while Mionetto has surpassed 750,000 cases.

Ted Campbell, senior vice president and general manager of LLS, a division of Winebow Imports, says growth has slowed a bit this year, but insists that the category is still going strong. “It’s not that people are drinking less Prosecco—it’s just that the base is so much larger than it was,” he explains. Many others say the same. Giacomo Turone, senior vice president of brand planning and development at Palm Bay International, says strong growth is continuing this year “at every single price point where there’s volume.”

Retailers acknowledge the extraordinary growth Prosecco has shown over the past five years, but some are seeing a slowdown. “I don’t see the growth we’ve had in the past,” says John Farrell, vice president of sales and merchandising for Minnesota-based Haskell’s. “Prosecco is a very strong category—but I think it’s now a mature category. We aren’t seeing that explosive growth we saw as people were just learning about it.”

Taub Family Selections is bullish on the prospect of moving Prosecco drinkers into more upscale products. The company recently introduced the Valdo Cuvée 1926 Prosecco Superiore from Valdobbiadene, a DOCG brand priced at $20, compared to the standard Valdo Prosecco at $15. “We see premiumization happening,” says Diego Avanzato, senior vice president of portfolio management and marketing, noting not only the more upscale line extension but also price increases on the Valdo brand.

Freixenet Mionetto USA is exploring the upper pricing tiers with a new entrant: Freixenet Prosecco. Priced at $18-$20 a 750-ml., compared to Mionetto at $12-$14, the Freixenet label aims to tap into the growing sector. Terlato Wines also has a one-two punch in the category, with its Riondo brand complemented by the higher-priced Nino Franco. Those two labels combine for around a quarter-million cases.

One other development that could pave the way for category expansion is the pending approval of rosé Prosecco. Producers have been pushing Prosecco’s governing authority, the Consorzio di Tutela del Prosecco DOC, and Italy’s Ministry of Agriculture to allow official rosé designation. “With Prosecco as a whole, it’s our expectation that the Italian government is going to approve a Prosecco rosé,” says Campbell. “I think that will give a nice bump to the category. We expect that to be approved either in 2020 or the year after.” Market Watch has more on the outlook for Prosecco heading into 2020.—Carol Ward

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