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Low-Calorie Wines On A Rapid Rise, Benefiting From Consumer Wellness Trend

April 20, 2021

Even as the hard seltzer craze continues in the beverage alcohol marketplace, many vintners are now trying to capitalize on the fast-rising “Better for You” wine segment, as American drinkers continue to crave health- and wellness-oriented products. These new wines boast fewer calories, fewer carbohydrates, and even lower alcohol—and most of the brands have zero residual sugar. But marketers also get more bang for their buck, as these healthier alternatives generally sell for above-premium prices at retail.

The most widely known and largest-selling brand in the segment—California’s Fitvine—has actually been around since 2015, when it became available in the DTC space. It was launched at retail in 2017, initially at Whole Foods. Fitvine’s wines average less than 1 gram of sugar per liter, or less than 0.09 grams per 5-ounce glass. Fitvine depleted over 317,000 9-liter cases in the U.S. last year, a 45% increase over 2019. Early forecasts from Fitvine ($15 a 750-ml) project the brand reaching 500,000 cases by year-end.

The Wine Group is filling a void at the $10 price-point with its Cupcake Lighthearted brand, which launched last summer and depleted well over 100,000 cases in just six months on the market. Lighthearted boasts just 80 calories per 5-ounce serving, with 8% abv and less than one gram of sugar, and is continuing its rapid growth this year. Another brand off to a fast start is Avaline—from actress Cameron Diaz—an organic, vegan-friendly label ($24 a 750-ml.) which touts its use of little-to-no additives. Kim Crawford’s Illuminate extension ($18) depleted 13,000 cases after a soft launch last fall, ahead of a wider rollout last month. Constellation plans to produce up to 150,000 cases of Illuminate in its current fiscal year.

2021 has brought an influx of even more launches, trying to appeal to drinkers embracing healthier lifestyles. Most recently, Delicato entered the “Better for You” segment with the debut of Bota Breeze, in the premium 3-liter box sector. Other recent introductions from major wine marketers include Kendall-Jackson Avant Lower Calorie Chardonnay ($17) from Jackson Family Wines, Mind & Body ($13) from Trinchero Family Estates, Evenly ($15) from Ste. Michelle Wine Estates, and Yellow Tail Pure Bright from Deutsch Family Wine & Spirits in the popular-priced segment.

According to Nielsen, low-calorie wine dollar sales increased 302% in the 13-week period ending January 9, compared to the same 13-week period one year prior, while low/no-sugar wines increased over 1,000%. For the entire year, “Better for You” wines nearly doubled in volume terms in 2020, and are expected to combine for well over a million cases in the U.S. by year-end, according to Impact Databank.—Juan Banaag

Leading “Better for You” Wine Brands In 2020
(thousands of 9-liter case depletions)
Brand Company Origin Depletions
Fitvine Fitvine California/Italy 317
Cupcake Lighthearted The Wine Group California 102
Skinnygirl Beam Suntory California/Italy 52
Liquid Light Ste Michelle Wine Estates Washington 34
Avaline Avaline Spain/France 21
Cense Precept Wines California/New Zealand 20
Brancott Estate Flight Song Pernod Ricard USA New Zealand 19
Kim Crawford Illuminate Constellation Brands New Zealand 13
Total Leading Brands 583
Source: IMPACT DATABANK © 2021
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