Weight Watchers has partnered with California's Truett-Hurst Winery to offer a lower-calorie New Zealand sauvignon blanc that only has 85 calories per 5-ounce glass, compared to the 120 to 140 calories found in a typical glass of white wine, according to CNBC. Sold under the Cense label, the product is available at major supermarkets chains, including Kroger, and through independent distributors. It can also be ordered from the Cense website.
Representatives from Weight Watchers told CNBC the company lowered the calorie content by using the same process winemakers use to lower alcohol content. According to Wine Spectator, it is the first wine to receive the group's endorsement in the U.S.
The wine has a Weight Watchers label on the back of the bottle, but it's removable. "If you want to take it to a dinner party, you can and you don't have to advertise you're minding your weight," Ryan Nathan, Weight Watchers' vice president of products, licensing and e-commerce told CNBC. He added that consumers aren't seeking a one-calorie wine. "They want livability when it's 30% fewer calories. It's not like Diet Coke. You don't drink it unlimited, but over time, it does help."
So far, reviews of the Cense sauvignon blanc have been positive. Business Insider recently conducted a taste test and found the product "surprisingly drinkable."
There is increasing consumer interest today in lower-calorie alcoholic beverages, particularly among health-conscious millennial consumers. According to a recent survey paid for by Boston Beer, 47% of Americans of legal drinking age think there are too few low-calorie alcoholic beverage options.
Most calories in wine come from alcohol. Phil Hurst, president and CEO of Truett-Hurst Winery, told Wine Spectator that it took a lot of time to figure out how to produce a wine with a lower alcohol level without sacrificing flavor and aroma, but that the company was pleased with the outcome.
"Now we kind of know the secret sauce. We kind of know the profile of the wines that are going to fit this technology," Hurst said. "Rosé is at the top of our list."
Cense is not alone in the segment. Skinnygirl, a line of lower-calorie alcoholic drinks launched in 2011 by actress Bethenny Frankel, offers wines containing 100 calories per 5-ounce glass. The company also offers flavored vodkas, cocktails and other beverages.
There are also low-calorie alcoholic seltzer options, including Boston Beer Company's Truly Spiked and Sparkling. These seemingly better-for-you alcoholic drinks target millennials — many of whom may not be interested in a product endorsed by half-century-old diet program Weight Watchers. At the same time, this new offering may make the Weight Watchers program and its aims seem more relevant to young drinkers, who are more likely to want the lower-calorie option simply for health reasons. And considering that "healthier" products are a new status symbol, the label advertising the lower calories may actually be a boon for sales and be proudly left on bottles of Cense at parties attended by millennials.
Lower-calorie alcohol options don't have to come from manufacturers making label claims. Shape magazine recommends looking for brands with lower alcohol by volume percentages; buying wines from Italy, France and Germany, where alcohol levels — and calorie counts — tend to be lower than in the U.S.; and avoiding added sugar wine products such as champagne.