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The Lighter Side of Wine and Beer

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Euromonitor International figures show that volume sales of wine declined marginally in developed markets in 2014, while beer sales were up marginally. Brewers have been trying to boost volume sales in these regions, for example by including female drinkers or millennials in their target consumer group. Wine makers, unlike brewers, have to deal with a relatively less consolidated market category-wise, but, like the brewers, aim to expand their sales to a wider demography. However, there are some niches that both industries can look at to attract attention towards their brands, one of which is low-calorie products.

Exploiting a niche trend – low-calorie wine and beer

Developed markets have been witnessing a shift in consumption away from high-calorie non-alcoholic drinks and food to low-calorie ones. This has been reflected in the decline in per capita daily calorie purchase in markets such as the US, Germany and Canada. Other developed markets have been witnessing a decline in one or the other.


Source: Euromonitor International

Identifiably, the markets in the bottom left-hand corner are predominantly developed markets. Their non-alcoholic drinks and food calorie purchase is somewhat influenced by weight-management trends imposed by social pressures on physical appearance. More recently this weight-management lifestyle has been seeping into consumer attitudes towards alcoholic drinks consumption.

Wine makers and brewers can potentially satisfy demand for weight-management-orientated alcoholic drinks via low-calorie products, providing tipples that are 15% to 20% lighter than standard still light grape wines, for example. However, wine-making or brewing processes integrating calorie reduction weaken the taste of these drinks, a factor that is a key deterrent for consumers. So far, there is no clear sense of how large this low-calorie market could potentially be, but there are indicators as to which markets it is most likely to succeed in.

The great US low-calorie beer rejection

With regard to low-calorie beer, there is a chink in the armour of this product. The US already showed a lack of interest in low-calorie beers, as seen in previous attempts by AB InBev NV and SABMiller Plc to push their low-calorie beer brands Select 55 and Miller 64, respectively. This was partially because of the standoffishness of beer drinkers towards mainstream beers, in favour of craft ones. And also partially because of the beer drinker’s demography of not being concerned about weight-management issues, with such consumers primarily being male and in the 21-49 age range. Moreover, beers tend to have a higher sugar content than wines and spirits, and the former would have to forego more on the ABV content side to lower its calorie content.


Source: Euromonitor International

The demise of Select 55 and Miller 64 in the US, following their respective entries in 2008 and 2009, highlighted the weak demand for such low-calorie beers. They were mostly pushed by promotional activity from the brewers, which stimulated demand initially, although the performance since 2011 has shown that this was a short-lived blip in demand, as low-calorie beer volume dropped by 92 million litres between 2010 and 2014.

Is there potential in wine then?

Potentially, some developed markets will be the target for low-calorie wines, where the wine-drinking culture is more prominent and where weight-management trends are significant. Wine volume sales in the US and Canada are expected to witness more dynamic growth over the 2014-2019 period when compared to such countries as Sweden, Germany and Belgium, where calorie purchase is also falling.


Source: Euromonitor International

Emphasis on this market niche makes more sense for the wine-making industry, which has commonly been the domain of female drinkers, unlike beer. Low-calorie beers are unlikely to bring about sustained volume sales growth for brewers, as observed in the US.

It is the wine makers that will be attracting the bulk of the gain in such a niche category, and there are opportunities for wine in low-calorie line extensions. Brands such as Brancott Estate’s Flight Song low-calorie wine will likely attract consumers, partially due to its low-calorie factor. Just over a year since its introduction, it aims to attract that female, millennial crowd. However, brand owners and managers must not fall into the same trap as the Skinnygirl celebrity-owned and -endorsed Skinny Vine product, where the crude branding strategy went overly female-centric, leading to it being perceived as patronising by a fair portion of its potential consumer pool.

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