In a world of less travel and socialising and even lockdown (!), we had time. Time to reconsider relevance and importance and also to think about the way we do things. But does that mean we are now better informed and more calculated? Or did living in a bubble sooth us into a bit of a lull? Are we still open-minded and adventurous or are we a little conservative?
With a pandemic affecting everything from your physical health to your financial wellbeing, no one can be blamed for being cautious. Caution actually seems like a very wise state of mind in these uncertain times. But while it may be wise, I really struggle with the idea. I like to challenge caution with bravery and broad-minded thinking. Adapting to our new normal takes time, but I believe we can’t get stuck in our current dilemma, we have to plan for the future and do so with passion.
I took my management team on an outing to Franschhoek. We needed some face time and we wanted to support our local restaurants. I told them about the plans we have for Franschhoek tourism. Big plans. Some looked at me incredulously. And while a town with a tourism-bloodline is hungry for recovery, recovery should only be a short term vision. Now, more than ever, we have to think big. In South Africa that is true not only for tourism, but also for the alcohol and then especially the wine industry, that took hard hits during the Covid-induced liquor bans.
But of course, passion without a plan can be dangerous and we need to stay on top of consumer behaviour and preference. I therefore really enjoyed Lulie Halstead’s Trend Talk during a WOSA webinar. Based on figures and statistics, but interpreted with insight, these trends are very handy guidelines when making big plans. The Wine Intelligence report shows, for instance, that alcohol was more resilient than anticipated. While there was the understandable global decline in 2020, recovery is on the cards with an expected 1.7% growth in 2021 and a long term recovery of 0.4%.
But what are the other important considerations when we are making big plans? Are we still focusing on our traditional markets, for instance? While it will be foolish not to treasure loyal support, it is interesting to see which markets are most attractive. The Wine Intelligence scale takes both wine specific and general economic and demographic measures into consideration. Not surprisingly, the USA stays top of the list, but did you consider South Korea as an option? With their strong economy, high value spend per bottle and good growth rate, perhaps you should – they are second on the list of most attractive wine markets! Just keep in mind that localism is a trend that continues post lockdown and it might be better to focus on non-wine producing countries.
Also consider the placement of your product. While we all believe the tourism tide is turning, consumption at home stays popular – even in China! And while many still buy from their local supermarket, sentiments from the majority of markets indicate that the online wine shop is here to stay. Drinking at home means that more people enjoy wine without food than in the past. While wine and food stay a popular pair, wine drinkers are increasingly pouring a glass for relaxation or as an aperitif. Keep this in mind when considering wine styles. Perhaps there is now more room for easy-drinking rosés than those blockbuster shirazes you traditionally recommended with steak.
While the regular wine drinking population is on the decline, their connection with wine stays strong. What does this mean? Conscious about moderation when it comes to alcohol consumption and spoilt for choice when it comes to alcoholic drink options, there are less wine drinkers. At the same time, however, frequency of consumption stays the same or is even on the increase among regular wine drinkers. Worried about an ageing wine drinking population? While wine marketing’s focus on the younger wine drinkers makes sense, don’t ignore the older audience – they are actually the ones buying your product!
The trend for premiumisation also continues and the brand is very important – especially in the way it supports a quest for status and self-achievement. There seems to be less of a focus on the grape variety and knowledge about the wine. Information is readily available on your phone and while sustainability is important, it is regarded as a given. The flavour and taste of wine still matter, but the focus is on the brand. Supporting a premium brand, makes consumers feel part of a community – something very important to keep in mind for communication. And interestingly, while digital communication is the order of the day, recommendation from friends and family (whether in person or via Facebook) stays important – as does supermarket displays!
Valuable insights, but are these trends really way out and unexpected? They say, “the more things change, the more they stay the same”. When I look at the latest trends, even in a somewhat crazy world, it seems they were right – at least to a considerable degree. And definitely enough to give me the courage to think big!