Behind the Global SOLA Report: Sustainable, Organic & Lower-alcohol Wine Opportunities 2018

SOLA thumbnailWines offering a sustainability and environmental connection have the best chance of success within the alternative wine category as lower-alcohol and non-alcoholic wines struggle for attention, according to Wine Intelligence’s SOLA Opportunity Index

The wine category has always operated under the paradoxical benefit / liability of complexity and diversity. The benefit of variance in provenance, terroir and ingredients has made it perhaps the most interesting beverage category in the world; so much so that other categories, such as craft beer and gin, have adopted such variance to make their categories more interesting. The downside of this approach is that complexity breeds confusion, and many consumers in the wine category tend to resort to intellectual short-cuts to get to a purchase / consumption decision.
Into this mix comes a number of new (and not-so-new) viticultural and winemaking approaches, which are often aggregated into the phrase ‘alternative wines’. Some, such as organic wine and lower-alcohol wine, have been with us for some time. Others, such as vegan or sulphite-free wine, are relative newcomers. All are characterised by a combination of positive desires: to make more environmentally-responsible and sustainable wine, to give consumers a choice beyond the mainstream and to cater to committed (and often vocal) minorities; such as vegans who are seeking out products which fit their lifestyle choices.
This is our first multi-market, multi-category view of the alternative wines sector, and to escape the rather clumsy phrase we have adopted an acronym – SOLA – to describe the scope of the report.
On top of the standard complexity of their product, SOLA producers face the same challenges as the rest of the wine industry – to convey their understanding of the approach they have chosen to take.
However, some may see this as a solution: lower-alcohol Sauvignon Blanc may be a simpler proposition to someone specifically looking for a lighter product to serve at lunchtime; a committed vegan will perhaps be grateful for a vegan wine when faced with the alternative of not drinking wine at all.
For the report, we have also developed an opportunity index, crossing 11 markets and 12 sub-categories, to determine where SOLA wines have the greatest chance of success, and which of the individual product types within the group might work best.
The opportunity index considered the relative opportunities by market of wines that are lower in alcohol, non-alcoholic, Fairtrade, organic, sustainably-produced, environmentally-friendly, from a carbon-neutral winery, biodynamic, preservative-free, sulphite-free, orange / skin contact and vegan. It took into consideration awareness (people who are aware of the types of wine), purchase intent (people who have specifically bought the wine in the past 6 months or intend to buy it) and affinity (people who think the type of wine is right for people like them) in 11 key wine markets.
Organic wine ranks top of the opportunity index, indicating it has the strongest opportunity within the SOLA universe. This could be explained by the fact that ‘organic’ is generally best understood and recognised by both trade and consumers based on external accreditation and strong awareness of the term in adjacent food and drink categories (e.g. coffee and chocolate). The organic wine opportunity is particularly strong in Finland, Sweden and Germany, driven by strong retail objectives to increase the market share of organic wines.
But following closely behind organic is sustainably-produced, Fairtrade and environmentally-friendly wine. Despite the complexity of certifying these SOLA categories, consumers report being drawn to wine that is produced ‘sustainably’ or ‘environmentally’, whether or not it comes with a consistent accreditation. This suggests that people have a growing intent to buy wines that are produced in a way that takes both the environment and those creating the product into consideration, and are willing to consider designations that are broader than just ‘organic’ as supporting cues.
The Global SOLA Report: Sustainable, Organic & Lower-alcohol Wine Opportunities 2018 also covers lower-alcohol and non-alcoholic wines.  According to the opportunity index, lower-alcohol wines are making some progress, but struggling with inherent quality challenges and the availability of more attractive lower or non-alcoholic drinks.  In other words, the lower-alcohol wine category may deliver some future potential, driven by consumer moderation trend. Although observation of consumers suggests they are switching to alternatives beyond wine e.g. ‘mocktails’ and ‘adult soft drinks’ for lower or no alcohol occasions rather than wine.
But the appeal for lower-alcohol or no-alcohol wines supports consumer appeal of more ‘natural’ products as there is a stronger potential for wines naturally lower in alcohol rather than those reduced via mechanical methods.
According to the opportunity index, the strongest opportunity for lower-alcohol wine was identified in Australia and New Zealand while Nordic markets of Finland and Sweden had the highest opportunity for non-alcoholic wines.  In both fields, there was low appeal in both Japan and the US, but there is potentially more opportunity for lower-alcohol wine in emerging wine markets of China and Brazil in comparison with more established markets.
This 144-page report covers a vast amount of the alternative wine sector and spells out opportunities for 12 types of alternative wines over 11 markets.  It is now available for purchase or download for our All Access subscribers.  It can also be purchased in sections at a reduced price.  Please contact Eleanor for more information.
Author: Richard Halstead / Courtney Abernathy
Email: richard@wineintelligence.com / courtney@wineintelligence.com
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