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Sonal Holland MW presents India’s First Wine Consumer Survey

Posted: Tuesday, 14 March 2017 18:00


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Sonal Holland MW presents India’s First Wine Consumer Survey

Mar 14: In perhaps what is India’s first wine consumer survey, Sonal Holland MW, Founder-Director of India Wine Insider presented the findings of the survey carried out on 900 people in 5 top wine consuming cities of India at a mini conference organised on March 14 at Hotel Four Seasons, Mumbai followed by a panel discussion, reports Subhash Arora who attended the presentation and feels a majority of the findings support the gut feelings of experts but throwing a few surprises as well

Click For Large ViewWith 808 million people under the age of 35 years, 485 million of whom are over the legal age of 25 and also considering that there is a substantial number drinking nevertheless between the ages of 21-25 years, India is emerging as an important wine market. But despite this growing market, little is known about the Indian wine consumer except what's based on hunches and local experiences.

In a bid to understand the consumer behaviour better, Sonal Holland MW decided to commission a survey of 900 persons selected Pan India-in Mumbai, Delhi, Bangalore, Pune and Goa. The results were a part of the thesis submitted to the Institute of Masters of Wine. They were re-formatted and unveiled in front of an audience consisting of wine stake-holders at a mini-conference organised at the Four Seasons Hotel in Mumbai on March 14. The presentation was followed by a panel discussion in which she was joined by Kapil Grover, Founder & Chairman of Grover Zampa Vineyards; Vishal Kadakia Founder & Director of Wine Park and Jasjit Singh Assi (JJ), Hotel Manager of the Four Seasons.

Here are the highlights from her Survey conducted by a professional agency she commissioned:

Limited Consumer Understanding

Click For Large ViewConsumers’ understanding of wine is limited but awareness and consumption are positively related, making it a positive point for more education at all levels. People are aware of the colour but are not very knowledgeable about grape varieties or the style. More education would lead to more consumption and hence more sales.

Price Sensitivity

Price is most important when selecting wine (off-trade). Fewer than 20% rely on shopkeeper recommendations. Reserve, Chateau, Superieur on labels have lesser influence than familiarity of brand name. There is thus an opportunity to develop on-trade sales by enabling greater interaction with customers through sommelier training.

Mainstream Drink

Wine is increasingly becoming a ‘mainstream drink’ consumed across a wide range of occasions, both at home, restaurants and bars. Consumers show strong preference for drinking wine at home with family members, suggesting that wine is gaining cultural acceptance within Indian households. In restaurants, wine is being mostly consumed during large gatherings, casual or fine dining meals.

Wine by the Glass

The Survey validates the recommendations being doled out by delWine for over 10 years. Around 55% of consumers prefer to order by the glass across the different categories of restaurants. The percentage shoots up to 72% in a casual dining restaurant. ‘With less than 20% of consumers purchasing wine exclusively by the bottle, wine by the glass is the preferred choice for on-trade consumption. Hotels/ restaurants need to seriously re-visit the “by the glass” programs for increased on-premise wine sales.’

Fortunately, the restaurants are slowly getting the message now and already have the wine-by-the-glass concept in top drive. The issue of storage of the left-over wines still remains although many restaurants try to point out unconvincingly that if the wine is left unsold overnight-it is either drained out or the sommelier tastes the next day and decides whether to serve or not.

Expensive Wines to impress

Click For Large ViewSensitivity to price comes as a surprise. The survey shows that more expensive wines are poured at business meetings, parties and for gifting to set a favourable impression. The survey has not taken into account whether the wines have been Indian or imported wines which are inherently more expensive than the Indian wines. Drinking a wine at home at Rs. 594 is possible only if the subjects were drinking regular Indian wines costing Rs. 300-600; imported wines cost a minimum of over a Rs. 1,000 a bottle.

Also, it is an eye-opener to learn that people are spending the most- Rs. 1219 on the average - for wines to be gifted. This could perhaps be explained by the fact that generally cheap imported wines costing around Rs. 1100-1200 are given as gifts, much more expensive than an ordinary Indian wine.

Perceived as Healthy Drink

Wine is uniquely positioned in the consumers mind as a healthy, sophisticated and less intoxicating (therefore socially acceptable) beverage. These qualities make wine unique, unlike any other beverage thereby giving it a distinctive marketable advantage over other alcoholic beverages.

Fetish for imported  wines

Consumers view international wines more favourably over domestic wines. Despite being expensive, they are perceived superior to Indian wines in terms of quality, packaging and as gifting options. The only association where Indian wines are rated over international wines is that they offer ‘value for money.’

Women important segment

Like most newer developing world markets, women have been an increasingly important part of the wine market in India. Indian women look at wine as a classy, empowering, healthy beverage and are experiencing fewer cultural inhibitions when drinking wine in the company of their family members. They purchase wine as often as men. The surprising finding indicates that they can spend more on wine than men, though marginally.

Beyond Bombay

There are significant variations in how wine is perceived and consumed across India. Bombay (Mumbai) continues to be the largest wine consumption center in India. But it is largely a domestic wine-driven market with low frequency of wine purchases and relatively lower spending on wine compared to other cities, another surprising discovery of the Survey.

It is nice to find that in the survey Delhi shows an evolved culture with higher share consumption of international wines over domestic wines coupled with a higher propensity for wine spends than Mumbai; this could be because the Indian wines have to really ‘compete’ with the imported wines.

Bangalore and Pune are vibrant wine markets that can no longer be ignored. Consumers in these two cities show equal preference for both domestic and international wines across a range of styles, regions and varieties. Coupled with the willingness of the customers in these cities to pay higher prices, the survey points to a rapidly emerging wine culture. Goa, on the other hand, displays a preference for consuming wines largely at home with high prevalence of inexpensive Indian wines in their drinking portfolio (perhaps the so called Goan Ports).

Increasing demand amongst younger consumers

Click For Large ViewThe survey indicates that ‘the younger age group of 25-34 years, which is earning freedom and money represents a promising market segment for the wine industry. A comparison between the younger group and the more settled-down group of older people, shows that the younger group is buying wine as often as their older counterparts. They show a strong preference for imported wines over Indian wines. They drink wines to appear classy, sophisticated and intelligent. Their positive attitude towards wine and the aspiration to drink better quality wines positions them as tomorrow’s leading consuming group’. It also validates the generally held belief that wine is a lifestyle and an aspiration drink.

About Sonal Holland MW

An accomplished wine educator, wine consultant to hotels and now a wine broadcaster, Sonal Holland is the quintessential wine diva of India.  She is also India’s highest qualified wine professional. She is India’s first and only Master of Wine, joining the elite group last September, a year after delWine had predicted that she would soon join this group. Hundreds of applicants have reached the level when we predicted it but have faded away without making the final cut.

Sonal earned the coveted title in September, 2016 when she joined 12 other students to be a part of this group totalling only 354 who have made it to the peak of the Mount Everest of wines.

For the second time, Sonal was also one of India’s Top Ten WOW (Women of Wine) in 2015. Indian Wine Academy and delWine pioneered the concept in 2013 in order to biennially recognise and motivate women working in the Indian wine industry as winemakers, producers, sommeliers, marketers, educators and journalists.

For any queries, please write to her directly at delWine is the first wine media publishing the Full Presentation.

Subhash Arora

Full Presentation

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Tags : Sonal Holland MW, India Wine Insider, Institute of Masters of Wine, Kapil Grover, Grover Zampa Vineyards, Vishal Kadakia, Wine Park, Jasjit Singh Assi

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