Monday, December 30, 2013

Grocery Wine Tasting Payoffs Big the During Holiday Season

Ready-2-Eat and Ready-2-Drink success is in part being fueled by the growing immediate growth in time deprived and yet inquisitive consumers quest for new flavors and personal discovery. Ryan Owens of Anglesmith explains how this “Try-Before-You-Buy” is expanding with new technology.

Many regional grocery stores are discovering that when it comes to selling wine in December, traditional holiday promotions are just a small part of the overall strategy. The real work for achieving success in the wine aisle during the holiday season starts much earlier and takes place througout the year.

Facing stiff competition from big-box discount stores like Sam’s Club and Costco, many smaller, regional grocery stores are putting a new emphasis on customer service and employee education. Friendly, personal attention and well-trained employees with a deep knowledge of wine are giving the big discount stores a run for their money.

The scale of local and regional grocery stores means that they usually have a more approachable, hometown atmosphere and managers are taking advantage of this by hosting wine tasting events to help build deeper connections and develop greater loyalty with their customers.

“Wine tastings are good events to get customers excited about new wines,” said Trac Le, Wine Buyer at Bi-Rite market in San Francisco. “We do events in our off-site community space where our customers can relax and have fun while we let them taste the new releases. We like to educate our customers that way.”

Many stores are taking it a step further by installing self-serve wine dispensing and preservation systems, like those designed by Napa Technology, that keep wine fresh for long periods, reduce spoilage and allow customers to taste wine whenever the store is open.

“It’s all part of a larger try-before-you-buy trend in wine sales,” says Jayne Portnoy, Vice President, Marketing and Brand Strategy, at Napa Technology in Campbell, California. “Grocery stores are starting to realize that wine tastings lead to more bottle and case sales.”

A number of grocery store wine buyers expect staff to taste new wines and attend extensive training sessions to help customers make better choices. “We have our employees taste the wine they’re selling so they can make good recommendations to our customers,” Kevin Forsaith, Wine Director at Draeger’s Market in Menlo Park, California.

But the trend is not limited to the West Coast. Southwestern grocery store H.E.B., based in San Antonio, has an extensive training program for wine department management and staff who are trained by the Wine & Spirit Education Trust. In addition to the in-depth staff training, H.E.B. also installed WineStations in high-profile locations to encourage customers to taste and get to know which wines are right for them.

Having been treated with special attention at tasting events all year long, customers have come to rely on their local stores so much that by the time the holidays roll around, they know which wines they want to buy and where to buy it.

“We usually do one Champagne tasting the first week in December to kick things off and that’s all we need to get the sales going,” says Forsaith. “Around the holidays, we get so busy we don’t host our regular tastings in the last three weeks leading up to Christmas because we have so many regular customers that need our help.”

Installing wine dispensing systems that let customers taste wine whenever they shop and hosting regular wine tasting events help create a convivial atmosphere that cements loyalty between customers and their local supermarket. Strategic thinking throughout the year means that when it comes time for supermarkets to sell wine during holidays, the customers just show up like magic.

This was a guest blog provided by Ryan Owens account executive at anglesmith. Success leaves clues and Foodservice Solutions® likes to share success clues. For more visit:

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