From Crisis to Opportunity: understanding the wine industry's path forward

The wine industry's struggle against economic and climate pressures

Robert Beir


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The wine industry, a global cornerstone of culture and commerce, faces a confluence of challenges that have brought it to a critical juncture. The latest ProWein Business Report, a comprehensive survey conducted by Geisenheim University involving over 2,000 industry members, sheds light on the multifaceted crisis the industry is grappling with. The report titled "Ways out of the crisis" provides a detailed insight into the current state and future prospects of the wine sector.

The economic downturn has emerged as a primary concern for the industry. According to the report, 73% of the respondents in 2023 identified cost increases as a significant threat, although this is a slight decrease from 85% in 2022. The global economic downturn and decreasing wine consumption are also major worries, with 59% and 48% of respondents highlighting these issues, respectively. This marks a notable increase in concern regarding wine consumption, up from 30% in 2022.

Interestingly, climate change, despite its severe impact on wine production worldwide, was not the top concern. This is attributed to the more immediate economic pressures overshadowing the long-term effects of climate change. The report indicates that only 45% of respondents saw climate change as a major threat, despite the fact that 2023's global wine production hit a 60-year low, as per OIV figures.

Supply chain issues, while still significant, have seen a decrease in concern, with 32% citing it in 2023 compared to 66% in 2022. However, recent geopolitical events, such as the Houthi attacks on shipping in the Red Sea, are expected to heighten these concerns once again.

In response to these economic challenges, the industry is focusing on cost reduction, with 64% of producers and traders aiming to cut costs. Interestingly, only a small fraction (6%) is considering staff layoffs, emphasizing the value placed on retaining skilled employees.

The report also challenges the previously held notion of premiumisation in the wine market. The trend appears to be shifting towards popularisation, with the popular/lower price point segment seeing growth, in contrast to declining sales in the premium/super-premium segment. This shift is expected to continue, with predictions of increased sales in the popular segment and a further decline in premium sales.

Another significant finding is the decrease in global wine consumption, attributed to reduced disposable income and health and wellness trends. This decline in consumption is not expected to reverse even if the economy improves. Changing preferences, with consumers gravitating towards beer and spirits, are also impacting wine sales. This trend is evident in the ProWein fair's inclusion of ProSpirits, a new feature focusing on a variety of spirits.

The survey also highlighted the marketing challenges faced by the wine industry, particularly in reaching younger consumers. Large beer and spirits companies, with their substantial marketing budgets, have an advantage in this area. A majority of French wine producers believe that other alcoholic beverages are more successful in appealing to younger consumers.

Despite the oversupply and falling demand, there is an industry-wide recognition of the issues at hand and a consensus on potential solutions. The report suggests a holistic approach combining economic sustainability with improved communication as key to securing the future of the wine industry. However, there is a discrepancy in views between producers and traders on the profitability and marketing strategies for wine.

IThe wine industry is at a pivotal point, facing significant challenges but also displaying a readiness to adapt and evolve. The ProWein Business Report offers valuable insights and serves as a call to action for the industry to navigate its way out of the current crisis.

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