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Manischewitz To Moscato: The Emergence Of The African American Wine Consumer Market

Fri, 11/08/2013

The days of Manischewitz, Mateus and Canei’ as starter wines are over. Where once they were the brands synonomous with new African American wine consumers, today those beginner oenophiles are more likely to reach for a Moscato. In fact, the surge of the sales of Moscato has been widely viewed as an astonishing phenomenon by many in the wine industry. The popularity of Moscato has boosted this wine category to become the third best selling white wine in the United States. As an African American wine professional, I am delighted to see that African American wine consumers have figured strongly in helping Moscato sales reach this status.

The current popularity of Moscato was spawned by its easy appeal within the hip hop community which can be considered metaphorically, the African American consumer market in general.

To that end, let me offer a personal anecdote. I was first made aware of the popularity of Moscato when I attended a college graduation celebration for my friend’s son in 2009. I observed that over half of the young urban professionals mostly in their mid-twenties were drinking Moscato. When I asked about their choice, several said Moscato was the wine of the moment for their part of the consumer market and had been for a couple of years.

That’s when I realized that Moscato was this generations Manischewitz Cream White Concord, the entry level wine that I and many other African American boomers enjoyed in our twenties. That Manischewitz wine was a top selling wine in the mid 70′s and early 80′s in part given its popularity with African American consumers. Yet it is quite revealing that the wine industry for the most part HAS failed to anticipate this trend and the economic significance that African American wine consumers can and have made on many categories and brands of wines historically.

At this same party, I noticed that those not drinking Moscato were on to Chardonnay and Pinot Grigio. That was proof that the African American wine consumer moves up the ladder of wine sophistication quickly, as my survey, outlined at the end of this article shows.

Just as Manischewitz Cream White Concord served as my generation’s African American boomers entry level wine, there are other wines that have served a similar role for successive generations. Let’s review: The Gen X market consumed White Zinfandel in substantial quantities which resulted in this wine category being the third most popular wine category at one point, in the United States.

Yellow Tail and other Australian wines generally enjoyed success with African American wine consumers with both again, enjoying tremendous market share in sales volume. Yellow Tail especially enjoyed a position as a leading brand for African Americans and served for many as an entry level wine. Moet and Hennessey brands hold distinctions as leading brands that benefit from a loyal consumer market base of African Americans.

The African American Wine Consumer Market
The African American wine consumer market has been largely discussed in rhetorical terms: more as a cliche rather than as a significant market segment with tremendous economic impact on the sale of certain categories of wine. Today, some are more likely to categorize this consumer market by historic consumption trends and consumers who enjoy sweet and fruity wines such as Moscato and other entry level categories of wine.

It is my contention that this market is highly evolved, wine savvy and engaged in the art of wine appreciation. However, it is largely overlooked or marginalized by many corporate decision makers in the wine industry. Therefore, the wine industry generally benefits by the sales volume often achieved among various wine categories that are driven by African American consumers with little targeted advertising or marketing, such was the case for the growth of such wines including White Zinfandel and Moscato.

Our recent Wine Marketing Survey presented a contemporary perspective on African American wine consumption trends. The survey presented insights and perspectives on this consumer market as noted below:
-          68% consider themselves very/somewhat knowledgeable about wine
-          49% spend $ 20+ per bottle of wine
-          46% spend $ 100 or more monthly on wine purchases
-          63% generally have wine with dinner
-          83% discover wines through friends and consider their wine recommendations very important
-          54% indicated friends/salesperson influence their purchasing decisions  most often
-          49% estimate that 40-50+ %  of friends consume wine regularly
-          43% drink champagne frequently  several times a year
-          55% reported household income of$ 100,000+ annually
-          65% female and 34% were male of those respondents from a  survey of 750 wine consumers
-          Average age of survey participants was  45 years old

Moreover, the survey further noted that:
-          85% are familiar with and have consumed domestic  Chardonnay
-          67% are familiar with and have consumed domestic Sauvignon Blanc
-          74% are familiar with and have consumed domestic Riesling
-          94% are familiar with and have consumed imported Riesling
-          76% are familiar with and have consumed imported Pinot Grigio
-          85% are familiar with and have consumed Malbec
-          79% are familiar with and have consumed Tempranillo
-          79% are familiar with and have consumed Shiraz

The African American wine consumer market has roughly doubled in the past 12 years clearly aligns with the growth overall of reported wine consumers in the United States. It is now reported that approximately 20% of African American adults consume wine which represents a 10-12% increase from 1999.

The survey affirms that the African American wine consumer market is highly evolved from our days of Manischewitz Cream White Concord and other entry level wine experiences.  It is most likely those current generations of African American Gen X-ers and Millennial wine consumers brand preferences will evolve as well.

I would caution those who contemplate the future growth of the wine industry simply based upon the sustained popularity for Moscato by consumers beyond their hip-hop years. Will the next hip-hop generation be influenced by the next big thing in wine as determined by a hip-hop artist ode to another wine brand ?

We know one thing is certain: today’s twenty-somethings will become tomorrow’s thirty-somethings.