The United States has become the single-largest market for wine, passing France last year, according to Impact Databank. Unlike France and other historically large markets such as Italy, per capita wine consumption is rising in the U.S.
But American wine drinkers are not easy to understand, partly because there’s no such thing as a typical wine drinker. In fact, Constellation Brands, a global wine, spirits and beer producer and marketer, has determined that there are six types of wine drinkers in the United States.
Constellation interviewed 4,000 people in the U.S. who drink wine at least once every three months. They found that some wine drinkers want adventure, some use wine as a status symbol, some want wine that is inexpensive and easy to drink, and others find the world of wine confusing and intimidating.
By understanding how customers make their choices, restaurateurs can refine their marketing, simplify options if necessary, or give eager consumers more of a wine’s backstory.
• The price-driven consumer: Twenty-one percent of wine drinkers name price their top consideration, believing they can have good wine without spending a lot of money on it.
“They might try something new, but it’s not going to be outside their budget,” said Augustin.
These people are likely to buy wine in boxes or jugs to drink at home, and they drink a lot of it. Wine accounts for 38 percent of their total beverage alcohol consumption.
• Everyday loyals: Making up 20 percent of American wine drinkers, this group, which skews female, drinks wine as part of a regular routine. They tend to be brand loyal, sticking to wines they like, and are not particularly interested in trying something new. If you offer their favorite Chardonnay, Pinot Grigio or white Zinfandel, that’s what they’ll order.
• Overwhelmed: Nineteen percent of wine drinkers do not enjoy shopping for wine, and find the experience too complex.
“They actually very much enjoy the consumption of wine,” said Dale Stratton, Constellation’s vice president of strategic insights. “They like the flavor, they like the experience, it helps them relax. They’re just really intimidated by the shopping experience.”
These customers are likely to be scared away from ordering wine if they don’t see something they recognize, he added.
• Image seekers: These wine drinkers, 18 percent of the total, agree with the statements, “I want to live a life that impresses others,” and “I want to make sure the wine I choose says the right thing about me.”
These very profitable customers want to seem like they’re in the know, and like to drink trendy brands with cool labels. They don’t want to make a mistake, however, so they also have “a repertoire of well-known brands that they have in their back pocket,” Augustin said.
They also tend to lean toward sweeter wines, she said.
• Engaged newcomers: Making up 12 percent of wine drinkers, these young consumers see wine as a big part of their social lives and want to learn more about it. Like the image seekers, they prefer sweet wines and enjoy Moscato, but “they’re also looking for a level of authenticity in the brands they’re trying to drink,” Augustin said. These consumers want to hear the stories of the winemakers, and are likely to buy organic and biodynamic wines.
• Enthusiasts: These people love wine. They love beverage alcohol in general, in fact. They love talking about it, reading reviews about it, shopping for it and sharing it. They join wine clubs, too.
“They love the ritual and experience of wine,” Augustin said.
Although they prefer bold, robust reds, they also like the adventure of trying new wines, and they enjoy food-and-wine pairings as well.
* Abridged from an article by Bret Thorn at [email protected] Follow him on Twitter: @foodwriterdiary