Expert Column: 4 Reasons Grocers Should Dedicate Shelf Space to Local Wines


What’s not to love about drinking local beer that actually tastes good?

The fact is that drinking craft beer no longer is just a hipster affectation. More than ever, consumers are looking for a sense of place in the products they buy, and as a result, they’re looking for food and drink that is made closer to home.

Although craft beer is the epitome of the “drink local” movement, regional wines have not taken off in the same way. This is a huge opportunity for the grocery industry to create a conversation around local wine and turn a profit.

After all, supermarkets and big-box stores last year accounted for 42 percent of retail wine sales. As more people turn to grocery stores for their wine purchases, it’s time for you to make more room on the shelf for local wines.

Attract ‘Locavores’ to Your Store

With the ongoing explosion of the “locavore” movement, it’s apparent that consumers want more local options in every area, including wine.

You have the chance to be on the front lines of this change. Although pickier buyers will stick with specialty shops, a large percentage of Americans will look to local grocery stores for wine purchases. Here are a few reasons why your customers want to buy local wine:

1. Smaller growers use more natural production methods. Many local growers use fewer chemicals. And because they work hard to minimize chemical exposure, weather and regional difference are distinct in craft wines. This means more varieties. In fact, no two vintages will taste exactly alike.

Regional wineries create their wine locally from the vineyard to the cellar — something that’s much harder for large commercial producers to do. This is great for customers looking to buy local.

2. Local wines are more environmentally friendly. Just like any local product, wine that comes from the neighbor’s vineyard is better for the environment simply because it hasn’t been shipped across the country or the globe. Less travel means a smaller carbon footprint.

3. Local wineries have a huge economic impact. Local wineries can have a big impact on their communities — creating employment opportunities, promoting tourism and generating taxes.

In my home state of Missouri, the total economic value of the grape and wine industry was estimated at $1.6 billion in 2010. For retailers, the money that employees earn in those jobs often goes right back into their stores. These types of small wineries in emerging regions count on every sale, and supporting your region by dedicating ample shelf space to local wine can make a huge difference.

4. Local wine promotes buyer engagement. People are proud to buy local wines. These wineries are owned, managed and run by people they can meet and talk to. Wineries based in communities naturally retain some local flavor — whether that’s in their mission, ideas or tastes. People who connect with their purchase choices become loyal customers.

Stake Your Claim in Local Wine

With consumers increasingly scanning your shelves for local wines, it’s your job not only to make yourself relevant to the buyer, but also to the vendor.

One way to get started incorporating local wines into your offerings is by connecting with local wineries. Representatives from local wineries often are more than willing to partner with you for tastings as well as help to educate your staff and create more transparent pricing environments. You won’t find the same cooperative spirit from many large, international wineries.

Another great way to showcase local wines is to create special sections in your stores. For example, Hy-Vee is one grocer that showcases local products. Highlighting wine from nearby regions is a great way to deepen consumers’ appreciation for local products, and you can present the local wines with appropriate food pairings to even better serve your customers.

There’s a lot of wonderful evidence to show that regional wine is gaining momentum. Jumping on the opportunity to emphasize local wine offerings will strengthen consumers’ connection with their local communities and your stores. If you give consumers the opportunity to try these great wines, you’ll earn new clientele and see sales increase.

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