- Lower-alcohol wines are struggling for market share as consumers turn to low- and no-alcohol beers, adult soft drinks and mocktails, according to a new study from Wine Intelligence cited by FoodBev.
- The study, "Global SOLA Wine Report: Sustainable, Organic and Lower-Alcohol Wine Opportunities 2018," reports that consumers' main problem with lower-alcohol wine is the "perceived poor quality and taste."
- Lower-alcohol wine has performed best in New Zealand and Australia, but the worst in Germany, Sweden and Japan. The study also said that nonalcoholic wines have the potential to be better accepted in the Nordic countries — Sweden, Denmark, Finland, Iceland and Norway — with Japan and Portugal on the other end of the spectrum.
The new report shows that the wine industry is struggling to capitalize on its low-calorie beverages despite growing demand for healthier products. While low-alcohol wine, which has 15% to 30% fewer calories, seems promising, consumers believe the quality and taste to be inferior to regular wine and are turning to other beverage options.
That perception does not appear to transfer to beer makers, who have reported sales growth in their low- or no-alcohol portfolios and predict more to come. According to an IRI Worldwide report, the three top-selling beers in the U.S. are Bud Light, Coors Light and Miller Lite — all reduced-calorie domestic lagers. Meanwhile, large brewers such as Constellation Brands and Anheuser-Busch InBev have rolled out their own lower-calorie beers at higher prices to seize a slice of the premium market.
Other major beer companies also now have products in the sector, with Heineken launching its 0.0% MAXX last year and Coors offering its Non-Alcoholic brand. Guinness owner Diageo has Open Gate Pure Brew, and Carlsberg has been making nonalcoholic beers since 2015.
With low- and no-calorie beers getting so much attention, lower-calorie wine manufacturers will have to do more to capture consumer interest. Some brands — Truett-Hurst's Cense, Skinny Girl and FitVine are a few examples — have smartly positioned themselves in the market as flavorful and healthier products. Weight Watchers has also found success, partnering last fall with Truett-Hurst on a lower-calorie New Zealand sauvignon blanc sold under the Cense label. Reviews of the product have been positive, and after Business Insider conducted a taste test, it found the product "surprisingly drinkable." The company also likely benefits from consumer loyalty and expectations of the weight loss business' food and beverages.
The difference for wine makers may come from the processes used to achieve lower-alcohol levels. According to Wine Spectator, when low-calorie wine producers pick their grapes early, some of the flavor is lost, resulting often in less complex and satisfying wine. In contrast, the Weight Watchers partnership wine was made by filtering out some flavor and aroma compounds, removing the alcohol and then putting the compounds back in. The final product contains 9.6% alcohol by volume.