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No/low struggles to meet benchmark of ‘what wine should taste like’

Published:  09 March, 2021

The no/low wine category is struggling to meet the benchmark of what wine should taste like, according to new Wine Intelligence research. 

Highlighting a growing movement towards moderation, particularly among younger consumers, which has created a need for healthier options, more control, and a product that still tastes good, the 'Opportunities for Low- and No-Alcohol Wine 2021' report suggested that there is an unmet consumer need when it comes to wine. 

“As we relate these consumer needs to the wine category, we see why the spark of the no/low wine opportunity is struggling to become a blaze,” said Richard Halstead, Wine Intelligence chief operating officer and author of the report. 

“The report shows that no/low wine struggles to meet the benchmark of what wine should taste like. Individual winemakers have come close, but it seems clear from the data that the category as a whole suffers from a version of the tragedy of the commons: when a sufficient proportion of products in market fail the consumer taste test, it tarnishes the whole category,” he said.

The report also pinpointed availability as a possible problem, with retailers perhaps reluctant to invest heavily in promoting a product that “requires a very specific need and most likely a hand-selling effort”, added Halstead. 

“This latter factor has been conspicuous by its enforced absence over the past 12 months, as Covid-19 has restricted both the opening hours of specialist retail, and the inclination of shoppers to dwell, browse and engage with sales staff, denying them the opportunity to shift their tastes. This same phenomenon is also affecting niche products generally.”

The final inertia factor for the low/no wine category appeared to be the evident success that other alcoholic beverage categories are having in terms of convincing consumers that their product is more in tune with a moderating, healthier lifestyle, Halstead continued. 

“Chief among these are the successful low- and no-alcohol beer brands, such as Heineken 0.0, which has taken the bold step of aligning its core premium brand image with a no-alcohol product. So far, few wine businesses have been so brave,” he said.

“Other categories are also rising to meet the need. One could argue that some of the recent success of the hard seltzer category in the US and Canada is down to the category’s positioning as ‘low calorie, low carb’.” 

Finally, Halstead concluded, that even the strongest advocates for the no/low wine category needed to admit that, “at best, the category will be an interesting niche rather than the main event” in the wine category.

“Taking alcohol out of the equation will meet some needs, and those needs may grow over time, but for the foreseeable future most consumers will still choose ‘standard’ wine most of the time and opt for moderation that simply involves drinking smaller amounts, less often.”