“Market Places Eat Markets” (Thoughts On “Future-Proofing” Wine)

Vinted on August 23, 2019 binned in commentary, wine industry events
Tony Stark Optimism

In the words of Iron Man, “I’ve missed that giddy optimism.”

In this case, the Steve Rogers yang to my Tony Stark ying is Emetry CEO Paul Mabray. I’ve been fortunate enough to call Paul a friend for several years running, and not just because I dig on his penchant for Star Wars-related references in his slide decks; Paul is wicked smart, and we have long shared the view that wine is well into its most competitive market in the entire history of the product (for a real noodle-baker, just consider how long we’ve had that product…!).

Mabray delivered a speech at the recent MUST – Fermenting Ideas Wine Summit in Portugal, in which he discussed the “future-proofing” of wine marketing in general. You can access the whole-shebang of Paul’s slide deck, and/or rely on the very good write-up summary of Maybray’s speech over at The Buyer. I found both to be essential reading for wine marketing/branding/producing types. When discussing the write-up with Paul on Facebook, he remarked to me that “the message is starting to resonate. Now for the next phase, action.”

And that’s where the giddy optimism quote comes in, because this is one of the rare instances where Paul and I happen to disagree…

I have a decidedly less optimistic (okay, fine, bleaker) view of the situation in which wine, as a product category in general, finds itself as of 2019, particularly in the USA; that is to say, precariously balanced at the top of an ugly, precipitous drop. From Mabray’s presentation, we can see that there’s a leveling off of wine consumption generally in the US, after several years of increase that put my home country at the top of the wine buying ladder globally:

US wine consumption graph

It’s too late for any proactive action on the part of the wine biz with respect to Maybray’s insight that “market places eat markets.” In fact, it’s too late for a reactionary action on the part of the wine biz with respect to Mabray’s insights on the current state of the competitiveness of the wine market. The wine biz is now several years behind that 8-ball. On the bright side, my lack of optimism on this topic did land me an interview on NPR, so there’s that…

Anyway… those in the wine business probably now recognize that their competition is not just intra-brand, but inter-product-segment – to wit, here’s a look at another of Maybray’s slides, in which he makes the point very, very clear:

Maybray wine competition 2019

Wine now has to compete with, well, every other semi-luxury consumption item, including weed, and the only people who didn’t see all of that coming were those in the wine business that had a vested interest in not seeing it coming – namely, almost all of the collective wine business.

Hopefully Paul will forgive me for not seeing the picture as rosily as he does; the US wine biz doesn’t exactly have a history of being on the cusp of marketing trends, nor has it been known for deftly navigating the increasingly choppy waters of changing market segments. From my vantage point, (marketing and market) things are (still) probably going to get worse for wine before they get better.

Cheers…?

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