Managing Director North America, Distinguished Vineyards & Wine Partners.
Building meaningful relationships with new consumers will foster loyalty in the long term.
US wine’s most loyal customers, the Baby Boomers, are slowing down. The question is now: how do you create the new, lasting devotees that will take their place?
Wine is a generation game. The main groups that concern vintners like me – Baby Boomers, Generation X, Generation Y and, to a smaller extent, Generation Z – interact with the alcohol market and the world around them in different ways.
While Baby Boomers have made up the biggest cohort of wine drinkers in the US for decades, they’re now retiring and being replaced by generations of people with different tastes and principles. Here in the US, wine consumption growth has been led by Gen X drinkers, followed closely by Millennials. While Baby Boomers have not increased their consumption frequency to the same extent as other generations, this cohort still accounts for more than a third of our wine drinkers.
One topic that we think about and discuss with great attention are the benefits, attributes and intrinsic values that consumers truly care about when purchasing their wines. Of course, we know that people want quality, complexity, intensity and balance. They want good value, and wines that suit multiple occasions. But, as humans, our needs and interests extend far beyond mere functional product attributes.
Rising to the occasion
Consumers are more discerning about which wines they choose, desiring to know more information about the production, the people, and the brand values that stand behind the products. They want to be engaged as they build their knowledge, and so it’s important that we provide consumers with compelling experiences and information to provide them with meaningful ways to connect further.
When we created Dough Wines, a foundational objective was to build a bridge for wine consumers that enables them to support initiatives that will effect positive societal change. Our initial focus for Dough Wines aims to advance equality in America’s professional kitchens, to advocate for greater sustainability in our food and beverage ecosystems, and to support restaurant recovery efforts following the pandemic-induced setbacks that operators have encountered. Through an annual ‘Doughnation’ we support the James Beard Foundation, whose mission is to celebrate and elevate the people behind America’s food culture, and to champion a standard of good food anchored in talent, equity, and sustainability.
As we expand our distribution for Dough Wines across the US and into Canada, we’re creating opportunities for consumers to taste, engage and join us in our journey. We’re achieving this by participating in JBF Taste America events, by providing consumers with recipes created by inspirational Ambassadors for Dough Wines, and by funding two scholarships to support BIPOC students enrolled at Toronto’s George Brown College in its Centre for Hospitality and Culinary Arts.
A new boom time
We’re interested in shifting priorities and meeting modern consumer demands, which is what we should all be doing anyway if we want to stay in business. The demographics are changing, but total wine consumption in the US rose by 0.1% to 328.9 million cases last year, with the sales of premium wines ($15+) growing at faster pace.
This premiumisation reflects the consumer’s interest in drinking better, not necessarily more wine. Therefore, everything must begin with quality. From the vineyards to the winery, to the packaging and the service. Inviting consumers into a dialogue and, ultimately, a relationship with our brands, helps to foster loyalty in the long term and encourages our consumers to voice their support and advocacy of our wines to their friends.
Ensuring that our premium quality overdelivers for the price helps to build trust and reliability in the consistency of our wines, whether red, white or sparkling. Furthermore, innovation is paramount to providing consumers with alternatives to traditional beverages and brands. We are achieving this excitement through Dough Wines, which serves a dual purpose: delivering high-quality, premium wine while serving as a catalyst for doing good.
Increasingly in today’s fractured socio-political environment, I believe that companies have a responsibility to promote positive change in our society, and to stand for equity and equality in our communities. Having partnered with the James Beard Foundation for the past five years, we were drawn to the positive impact the foundation is making in the food and beverage communities that we serve. By leveraging our excellence in viticulture and winemaking, we developed Dough Wines with the intention of using our national platform as a force for doing good. With the purchase of Dough Wines, consumers can be confident they will have exceptional quality and terrific value, with the added benefit that their purchase will be serving a greater good and making a positive impact.
The perfect package
The most visible and valuable marketing asset that any wine brand possesses is its packaging. The label must be attractive, premium and differentiated from the category, as there are endless choices for consumers at point of purchase. With Dough Wines, Denomination challenged us to ensure that we were developing distinctive brand assets, including the brand name, its iconography, the colour palette and the materials that were selected. The attractiveness of the packaging and the cohesive portfolio presentation across the range of varietals has led to a successful first year in which we’ve exceeded our initial sales goals. This success, in turn, generates great momentum and delivers positive impact for the James Beard Foundation and our collective efforts to advance change.
In a challenging year, when restaurant operators have faced countless setbacks and retailers have focused on the blocking and tackling, it has been incredibly difficult for new product introductions to achieve breakthrough. However, in Dough’s first year following its launch, we are on track to sell the equivalent of one million glasses of wine.
In its conception, the Dough Wine brand was intended to launch in the on-premise channel. However, given the adverse operating environment that Covid-19 had on restaurants and bars, we converted the situation from a setback into an opportunity by focusing our launch in the retail channel so that we could fundraise in support of restaurant recovery efforts. This put even greater importance on the impact of packaging and presence for the wines on the retail shelf. Midstream through the process, Denomination embraced this pivotal moment as true partners and delivered brilliantly against our creative brief.
There remains a lot of runway ahead of us to ensure that Dough Wines receive the exposure, distribution and consumer trial in order to maximise our impact for good. It’s taken us years to craft these wines and to build the brand, so we’re just beginning to sow the seeds of change. We’ll continue to focus our energy and creativity towards growing our ‘Doughnation’, so that we can further enhance our support for the James Beard Foundation and its philanthropic ventures.