WINE COUNCIL IS AIMING TO FILL GLASSES OF THE YOUNGER CROD

LARKSPUR, Calif. -- The Wine Market Council here is developing a program aimed at increasing wine consumption among younger consumers.To aid supermarkets in the effort, the council is considering developing brochures, sites on the Internet, 800 numbers and other means of education that will be conveyed to consumers."People in their 30s, both males and females, are extremely marketable from our point

LARKSPUR, Calif. -- The Wine Market Council here is developing a program aimed at increasing wine consumption among younger consumers.

To aid supermarkets in the effort, the council is considering developing brochures, sites on the Internet, 800 numbers and other means of education that will be conveyed to consumers.

"People in their 30s, both males and females, are extremely marketable from our point of view, and the primary target of what we're trying to accomplish. They are an easier sale and most of the people who say they like wine but don't drink it very often are in their 30s," John Gillespie, the council's executive director, told SN.

Wine has improved in quality, and consumers should know about it, he said.

"The quality of the wine in the supermarket is there. The problem is getting the consumer who is hesitant to overcome some of those fears. 'I won't open a bottle just for me.' About 70% of marginal wine consumers have at least a bottle of wine at home. We're trying to find ways to show them that they can open that bottle without waiting for a special occasion. And when they do, two days later they will be back in the supermarket to buy a replacement," he said.

"We think that's an important way as an industry to help our supermarket retailers -- simply by removing some of those barriers, taking away some of the intimidation and the fear factor and driving consumer demand so that turnover of wine is increasingly faster and faster," he added.

The Wine Market Council is also considering developing a logo that could be placed in areas of the store, like the frozen food aisle or meat case, to alert consumers about what type of wine would go with a particular food and encourage them to visit the wine department.

"Just as many supermarkets are seeing that wine sells not only from the wine department, but also from the produce department, the fish counter and the cheese case, maybe there are ways that we as an industry can do the reverse and bring people to the wine aisle from other parts of the supermarket," he said.

The three-year-old council changed its structure this summer from being an organization of producers and wholesalers to one that also encompasses retailers, wine wholesalers, restaurateurs and wine grape growers.

"We want to bring the wine industry together and share in building the market because we know that a stronger consumer demand for table wine will profit everyone up and down the line, whether you are a retailer or wholesaler selling more wine or a grape grower selling more grapes," said Gillespie.

Gillespie said it is imperative for the industry to unite to increase wine sales. A study of 1,200 consumers commissioned by the council two years ago showed 16% of the adult population drinks 88% of the wine.

Supermarkets, he said, are key to increasing wine sales.

"More people are buying their wine in supermarkets than ever before, where permitted by law, along with drug and club stores. There are fewer and fewer mom-and-pop stand-alone specialty stores,"

Gillespie said. "The thing that is true about people buying their wines in these venues is that in most instances there is nobody standing in the aisles to explain the product to them. It is not like walking into a wine store and asking what will go with a crown roast."

Gillespie said the Wine Market Council wants to fill that information gap by providing more direct consumer-friendly information in consumer magazines.

Noting that as a country, the United States now drinks more ready-to-drink iced teas than wine, Gillespie said the wine industry needs to take a cue from the beer industry, which spends billions of dollars on consumer advertising each year -- compared with the wine industry's $30 million last year -- and successfully targets succeeding generations.

To help it reach its goals, the Wine Market Council has hired Rogers & Associates, a Los Angeles-based consulting firm, and the Chicago office of Bozell Worldwide, the New York-based advertising agency that created the "Got Milk" and "Pork the Other White Meat" campaigns.

"The pork campaign is in many ways analogous to the job that we have, which is changing the fundamental consumer's perception of a product or category," he said, noting ads will likely be skewed toward women because demographics show wine is more popular with women.

He added a television advertising campaign, backed with outdoor and print, will likely break in two or three years when production has increased enough to create a surplus. Because of stagnated sales in recent years, many vineyards were taken out of production and have only recently been replanted.