Single-serve bottles, that is: those once-bland blends formerly found mainly on airlines and in minibars. Sales of these so-called "187s," named for the number of milliliters in each bottle, are surging, thanks to an unfussy "echo boom" generation, and Trinchero Family Estate's Sutter Home Winery will pitch single serves in ads this holiday season.
Sixty million sold
Vintners from E.J. Gallo Winery to Piper-Heidsieck Champagne are also embracing single-serve packages, which saw sales jump 17% to $75 million last year. Though still a small percentage of the overall market, some 60 million single-serve wines were sold in the 52 weeks ended July 20, according to Gomberg Fredrikson & Associates.
Driving the trend are younger consumers who don't view wine drinking as a special occasion -- they've shown they're willing to mix and match wines with food and want to sample new varieties without buying a whole bottle. Peggy Fox, VP-marketing at Centerra Wine, part of Constellation brands, said these consumers are "expanding the times, places and events at which wine can be consumed," noting that the company's single-serve products, ranging from Woodbridge by Robert Mondavi to Arbor Mist, are growing at three times the rate of its base business. Sales of its Tetra packs in the Vendage line have been so successful that zinfandel and sauvignon blanc are being added.
The single serves are becoming more "important to our consumer base," said Wendy Nyberg, senior director-marketing for Sutter Home, whose holiday print push around the products will be handled by Colby & Partners, Santa Monica, Calif.
Can charge more
"Single serve makes a lot of sense to a lot of people," said wine analyst Eileen Fredrikson. Not to mention to the wine industry, which can charge a little more for the smaller bottles and has increased shelving in areas where young adults get their beverages -- alcoholic and otherwise -- such as supermarkets and convenience stores.
But as wine packaging becomes more and more akin to soda and other nonalcoholic drinks, it becomes more of a target for groups concerned with drinking. "It's all about making wine an everyday drink," said George Hacker, director-alcohol policies project, Center for Science in the Public Interest. "It's an introduction to wine for a lot of people reluctant to buy a whole bottle. It's treating wine like any other beverage when it is not."