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In search of the perfect wine club list

The sheer diversity of both wine styles and consumer tastes within the GB on trade means that the necessary, if sometimes derided, ‘wine list’ is one of the most important elements that a retailer can provide to the drinker, says Mark Newton of data specialist CGA.

With many drinkers as fickle as ever and competition fierce, utilising the wine menu to drive footfall can provide an all- important advantage – whether a casual dining restaurant, or a club.

The wine list is also often seen as the ‘face’ of the category offer by customers to any given venue, so to maximise the effectiveness of the offer it is crucial to optimise the menu, by understanding how many wines (per category) are desired (and expected) by consumers and how their choices are made. Price – whether by the glass, or by the bottle – is also an important factor, information on customer willing- ness to spend, and average price points, can provide key insights into best practice pricing and ranging.

Does size (of menu) matter?

In an often complex category, a barrier often cited by consumers to choosing wine, is a feeling that there can be too much information to digest, especially when taking into account style, country, region, varietal and price preferences. Thus, providing a balance between providing a sufficient amount of choice to please the majority, without alienating potential customers, can be difficult.

Analysis of consumer survey data undertaken by CGA has shown that many wine drinkers see a menu of 11-20 wines as being the sweet-spot. Therefore, it appears clear that a level of choice is important, but the message also suggests that it is important not to overwhelm (particularly more mainstream) wine consumers with too much choice.

Indeed, according to CGA data, the average number of brands on GB on trade menus is currently 11.3 (across both still and sparkling) – suggesting many retailers are already focusing on the ‘median’ ideal of consumer preference. But does it satisfy all options or retail/ consumer opportunities? It is probably fair to say that this view can vary considerably by outlet type/ customer expectation and demand. The importance of additional choice to ‘typical’ wine drinkers can be illustrated in the difference between Hotels (17.6) and sports/ social clubs (9.1) – customer expectations, followed by likely category demand will be the driver here.

Food also plays its part. Food led pubs, for example, offer an average of five more wines on a typical menu than a local/ wet led pub. Where the food offer is an important part of the overall retail offer then the availability of additional wine options/ choice could be crucial in such a competitive environment.

Price is King?

The old adage ‘price is king’ still appears to hold true, according to what consumers rate as important in their choice of wine. This reinforces the classic consumer demand that price is the primary motivator, but ideally not at the sacrifice of quality of product – something which venues need to keep an awareness of.

Over half (52%) of consumers suggest the ‘low to medium range’ (up to £15 a bottle bar price) remains key. However, it has declined by -3% year on year and signs of category premiumisation can be seen from the fact that the ‘medium to high range’ has increased by 4% to 22% with demand creeping up. This is reflective of general wider trends within the wine category.

When customers look towards higher priced wines then quality becomes the key driver of choice. At the lower end of the market – perhaps typically – it remains a price driven market. As a result, it is important for retailers to ensure that their higher end wines are ‘worth the money’ – otherwise they are likely to be pushed back to price being primary motivation.

It’s all about the white...

It is clear that white wine is the most popular category style with over two thirds of consumers suggesting that it should be the focus of greatest emphasis on wine menus.

White is also the biggest choice at the lower end of the market by consumer demand. Offering accessible entry levels of well-known white wine should therefore be a key element of any wine menu. Red wine appears to have the greater propensity towards premiumisation – possibly because it remains the key option for more formal ‘food pairing’ rather than casual, or general drinking where price is potentially a bigger motivation factor for white and rose.

What country? What grape?

While consumer survey analysis provides one view of the most popular wine styles for drinkers – CGA On Premise Measurement can give us a pure volume sales view on what Sports & Social Club drinkers specifically are buying.

Based on latest data the most popular wine countries of origin include obvious options such as Italy and Australia, but also more premium countries like New Zealand (volume up +6.9% year on year) are showing the biggest levels of growth.

When we move on to grape types (varietals) again classic styles such as Pinot Grigio are at the top of the list. However, Sports & Social Club wine drinkers are following wider on trade trends which suggest greater experimentation and interest in previously less well known wines such as Malbec (volume up +4.8%). It should also be noted that the sparkling wine phenomenon of Prosecco are showing some of the highest overall on trade volume uplifts in the sports & social club sectors (up almost +150% year on year) – which is providing a whole additional area of potential and opportunity for venues, whether bottle, or draught by the glass.


So, what is the ideal wine list? It depends on a multitude of factors, from venue type, location and customer base, with the key being to know the customer and to understand their expectations by outlet (or indeed outlet type). That said, amongst the variables, there are constants that should be taken into account:

• Familiar entry points – whether brands, styles or grape varietals – are important to the decision making process for many drinkers, especially in more mainstream scenarios.

• There can and should be more interesting options at higher prices to more clearly reflect the premiumisation trend and willingness of more knowl- edgeable drinkers to broaden their scope.

• Most consumers choose low-mid range, so concentrate the majority of wines within this range. But, clear opportunity exists at the mid-high range especially by the glass, where the increased use of wine dispense systems like Verre de Vin mean margin can potentially be enhanced and wastage reduced.

• The huge success of Prosecco has reinvigorated the more budget sparkling wine sector – and is showing no significant signs of slowing in popularity.



Mark Newton
t. 0161 476 8335
Source data for this report: CGA BrandTrack Consumer Analysis & CGA Wine OPMS P06 2018

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