No Easter, No Problem for Wine Sales

Off-premise sales through April 17 beat past four years--even without holiday

by Jim Gordon
siri wine sales

San Rafael, Calif.—Domestic table wine sales at major retailers continued to grow over last year’s pace in the four weeks ending April 17, according to data from the Symphony IRI Group (SIRI). The four-week growth rate slowed to just 2% for domestic wine—possibly because Easter did not fall in this period as it did last year—but the 52-week growth in dollar sales was 6%.

The biggest category of domestic table wine, varietals in 750ml packages, drew 3%. Non-varietal table wine in 1.5L sizes had the worst performance at minus-6% growth, but this is also the smallest overall category.

Imported table wines continued to sell more slowly than domestics, running at -.4% growth for the four weeks.

$20-plus wines hot

SIRI has been reporting for many months that table wines in Segment 7, the highest-priced wine segment it tracks ($20-plus per 750ml), have been growing rapidly. This trend continued in the recent data that SIRI analyzed as usual from major food and drug store check stand scan data.

April 17 ended the fourth four-week data period of the year, which traditionally includes the Easter holiday, when wine sales usually rise. Doug Goodwin, VP of client insights for wine, beer and spirits at SIRI, said, “In 2010 Period 4 was the highest in the past four years. This year the Period 4 for Segment 7 was $16.7 million, which is $2 million higher than last year. We are nearly four months into the year and the fast start we saw in January sales is still going strong.” That was despite Easter arriving so late.

Among all table wines in Segment 7, Sauvignon Blanc had the biggest percentage bump over a year ago, with 39% growth, although with relatively low sales. The biggest of the Segment 7 varietals, Cabernet Sauvignon, grew at 24%, and Pinot Noir hit 27%. Red blends/Meritage wines were not far behind at 23%.

King of distribution
It’s interesting that the top 10 brands in Segment 7 in dollar sales are all domestic, except one: That one is No. 1. Santa Margherita, the Pinot Gris favorite from Italy, beat out such top-quality California brands as Nos. 2 through 5: Sonoma Cutrer, Rombauer, Stags’ Leap Wine Cellars and Decoy (a brand of Duckhorn Vineyards).

Goodwin looked closely at the distribution of the top brands in Segment 7 and concluded that Santa Margherita had by far the best market penetration in areas where it could legally be distributed, at 51%. The nearest competitor in the top 10 didn’t surpass 29%.

“It shows there is growth potential for many of these brands by gaining distribution,” Goodwin said. “That statement isn’t so profound, but maybe the competing wineries need to put some focus on gaining quality distribution.”


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