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Wine Brands Can Benefit from Marketing Their Sustainability Online

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Brands should put sustainability front and center in their online marketing
to capture the attention of drinkers who shop their values.

By Robin Shreeves

 

Millennials and Gen Z aren’t embracing wine the way their older counterparts have. Rather, they’re increasingly embracing No/Low alcoholic beverages, spirits, canned cocktails, hard seltzers and other drinks that aren’t wine. For the first time in more than a decade, direct-to-consumer wine sales are down. In 2022, they fell 10.3% in volume and 1.6% in value, according to the 2023 Savos Direct-to-Consumer Wine Shipping Report.

One way for brands to engage these elusive demographics, experts suggest, is putting sustainability front and center in their online marketing to capture the attention of drinkers who shop their values.

Younger drinkers are interested in knowing what brands are doing for the triple bottom line: people, planet and profit. The 2023 Silicon Valley Bank State of the U.S. Wine Industry Report notes that, although many wineries produce wines that are in line with the younger population’s values, “more times than not, the green efforts those wineries and growers make aren’t being used for marketing purposes, even though the winemaker and winery owner must believe that those efforts make better wine.”

Jason Haas
Jason Haas

Meet Customers Where They Are

“We try to make sure that we exist and have a certain amount of fresh content and a certain amount of control over what the narrative is wherever there’s a gathering of people,” says Jason Haas, partner and general manager of Tablas Creek Vineyard in Paso Robles, Calif. 

“It’s where your customers are. If you aren’t on a social media channel and your customer is spending time there, you’re losing mindshare to the businesses that are,” he says.

Haas learned early on how important social media’s reach could be. More than a decade ago, he took to social media to ask customers’ thoughts on using lighter bottles.

“We got an unbelievable amount of engagement from people,” he says. Customers were fine with lighter bottles, but surprisingly, they also overwhelmingly just wanted “something that would fit in their wine racks.”

On social media, Tablas Creek averages a 4:1 ratio on topical educational posts to sales-oriented marketing posts. The educational posts do well with consumers. In a 3-month period in 2022, Tablas Creek ran a total of 76 Instagram posts. 61 posts were educational with an average reach of 5,464; 15 posts were promotional with an average reach of 5,828. The educational posts had an engagement of 470. The promotional posts had an engagement of 491.

Craig Camp
Craig Camp

Tell Your Story Clearly

Troon Vineyard is a Demeter Biodynamic Certified and Regenerative Organic Certified operation in Oregon’s Applegate Valley. Its website and social media make that clear. Craig Camp, general manager, says these messages are effective marketing tools.

“For a small winery, social media is incredibly important. It’s one of the only tools we have available for us. We don’t have a giant advertising budget. Social media makes it possible to connect with people who have the interest in what we do,” says Camp.

Troon - Facebook
Troon – Facebook

“You have to know what your story is and tell it clearly. So often, you see these pretty bottle pictures with a plate of cheese, but that doesn’t really tell your story. Get out on your farm and tell the story of your work. People are looking for authenticity,” he says.

Troon has another way to capture consumers’ attention — ingredients on the labels.

To add even more information to the bottle, Troon will add QR codes later this year that will lead to more information including nutrition and calorie information, something two of every five wine consumers say they want

 

Michele Manelli
Michele Manelli

Be Transparent

At the top of its website’s homepage, Tuscany’s Cantina Salcheto has a carbon footprint calculator that totals the greenhouse gas emissions it’s saved. Scroll down further and there are specifics on the winery’s water footprint, waste management and employee welfare. Increasingly, consumers are paying attention. 

“In the last four or five years, the [sustainable] message that we’ve been giving is much more impactful in our business, “ says Michele Manelli, CEO and winemaker. “It’s more easily attracting clients, distributors, agents and brokers.” Online sales have increased, too.

Salcheto - Instagram
Salcheto – Instagram

To be effective, Manelli believes online messaging needs to be clear and authentic.

“Transparency has always been our credo,” he says. “I think it’s even more important now because people are overexposed to the message of sustainability and they are more and more suspicious.” 

 

Engage with Industry Pros

“For the most part, social media is the best way to create relationships,” says RedThumb co-founder Dave Schavone. Natural wine brand RedThumb crafts a social media message that respects people’s right to know what they’re consuming.

Consumers have found the brand through social media and connected with its message, but so have others. Industry professionals looking for steadily available natural wines also engage with the brand through social media, as do wine influencers who introduce their followers to RedThumb. The online messaging about sustainability helps RedThumb “stay on people’s radar,” according to Schavone.

One last convincing piece of evidence that touting your sustainability can sell more wine: A recent study found that products making ESG (Environemntal, Social and Business Governance)-related claims “averaged 28 percent cumulative growth over the past five-year period, versus 20 percent for products that made no such claims.”

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Robin Shreeves
Robin Shreeves

Robin Shreeves

Robin Shreeves is a drinks journalist and lifestyle features writer. Her wine writing has appeared in dozens of print and online publications including Wine Enthusiast, VinePair, Courier Post, Carpe Travel, Spirited Magazine, Edible Philly, Vintner Project, Edible Jersey, USA Today, and Drink Philly. She holds a Level 3 wine certification and Advanced Wine Speaker certification from the National Wine School.

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