BevAlc Insights’ 2021 White Wine Category Forecast
Examining varietal trends, shifting consumer preferences, and more within the staple white wine category
As a category, white wine seems consistently steady and solid—as one of Drizly’s top-ranking subcategories overall, it’s an essential category for retailers to carry, without dramatic year-over-year changes or shifts. However, by examining the white wine category a bit more closely, retailers can better understand varietal trends, changing consumer perceptions, and discover ways to boost sales.
Inside White Wine Subcategory Trends
As liquor has gained momentum and over taken wine as the top-selling category on Drizly, the overall wine category has dropped to 39 percent of share over the past 12 months, compared to 41 percent of share during the 12 months prior.
According to Nielsen, off-premise sales of white wine for the 52-week period ending March 6, 2021 totaled over $9.1 billion—an 18.9 percent year-over-year increase. On Drizly, white wine comprised 29 percent of wine share over the past 12 months, a slight drop from 31 percent of share over the 12 months prior. These two percentage points have largely been captured by sparkling wine, which has gained share; red wine has maintained a consistent 40 percent of wine share.
Even though sparkling wine sales have cut into white wine share on Drizly, Julie Rossman, the vice president of marketing at Marlborough, New Zealand’s Kim Crawford Wines, maintains that the increasing popularity of wines that are similar to white wine—like rosé and Prosecco—has been beneficial to the category.
“Studies have shown that more and more consumers are including wine in their consideration set for refreshing alcoholic beverages that was once dominated by the beer and spirits categories,” says Rossman, “which has obviously benefited the white wine segment, as those wines are typically consumed chilled.”
“White wine sales have proven to be quite seasonal, gaining share and peaking in spring and summer months, then dropping off in the fall,” says Liz Paquette, Drizly’s head of consumer insights. As sparkling wine sales soar during the holiday season, the lowest share for white wine comes in December—21 percent in December 2020—before rebounding in January and February as consumers reach for lighter drinks (it held 27 percent of white wine share in January and February 2021).
The average unit price of white wine also tends to be lower than the average unit price of wine overall on Drizly—about 15 percent lower over the past 12 months. However, Rossman notes that within Constellation Brands’ portfolio, high-end wines drove more than half of white wine category growth amidst the pandemic, with super-premium wines being the highest contributor.
Which White Wines Are Selling?
White wine sales by grape variety seem to differ across online and in-store channels. According to Nielsen data across measured off-premise channels for the 52-week period ending March 6, 2021, Chardonnay holds the highest share of white wine sales value ($2.9 billion), followed by Pinot Grigio ($1.6 billion) and Sauvignon Blanc ($1.3 billion).
These three best selling varietal wines—Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay, and Pinot Grigio—make up 90 percent of all white wine sold on Drizly. However, Sauvignon Blanc holds the top spot, representing 40 percent of white wine share, followed by Chardonnay at 30 percent and Pinot Grigio at 22 percent.
According to Rossman, Sauvignon Blanc has grown by 24 percent in the U.S. market—more than any other varietal wine. “Sauvignon Blanc has a distinctly different style compared to Chardonnay, and consumers gravitate to the crisp, refreshing, light-bodied, and flavor-rich characteristics, especially those that originate from New Zealand,” she says. Kim Crawford Sauvignon Blanc was the best-selling white wine SKU on Drizly over the past 12 months, with sales up 30 percent in IRI markets, according to Rossman.
The majority of white wines sold on Drizly come from the U.S., with American wines comprising 50.3 percent of white wine sales over the past 12 months. New Zealand held the No. 2 spot with 24.5 percent of share, largely driven by the popularity of its Sauvignon Blancs, and Italy came in at No. 3.
“White wines have also experienced increased growth in alternative packaging,” says Rossman, highlighting Kim Crawford’s 250-milliliter can options. Though most white wines sold on Drizly are packaged in bottles, white wine consumers are also more likely to embrace boxed wine; the box format comprised 11.5 percent of white wines sales, while it only comprised 7.2 percent of overall wine share.
Two boxed wines—Bota Box Pinot Grigio and Bota Box Sauvignon Blanc—also ranked among the 10 best-selling white wine SKUs on Drizly over the past 12 months, though they each dropped a few spots from the year prior (from No. 5 and No. 7, respectively, to No. 7 and No. 8).
Drizly’s Best-Selling White Wine SKUs, Past 12 Months
- Kim Crawford Sauvignon Blanc
- Oyster Bay Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc
- Santa Margherita Pinot Grigio DOC
- Matua Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc
- Kendall-Jackson Vintner’s Reserve Chardonnay
- Cavit Pinot Grigio
- Bota Box Pinot Grigio
- Bota Box Sauvignon Blanc
- Josh Cellars Chardonnay
- Whitehaven Sauvignon Blanc
Who is Buying White Wine?
“The white wine consumer generally shares many of the same attributes as the general wine consumer, with the one difference being that white wine consumers tend to skew a bit more female,” says Rossman. Many white wine brands, including Kim Crawford, gear their marketing strategy towards women and those with active lifestyles.
On Drizly, white wine consumers skew slightly older than the average Drizly wine buyer. The 56 to 62, 63 to 69, and 70+ age groups all hold a higher share of white wine sales than they do for overall wine sales.
Active Lifestyles and Discovery to Drive Future Sales
As consumers increasingly seek out refreshing, lower-calorie beverages, white wine is poised to drive sales in the future. “Retailers should keep in mind that healthy living continues to be an important passion area for consumers today,” says Rossman.
Though well-known, international grapes dominate white wine sales, consumers are increasingly exploring more diverse origins and varieties of white wine. The fastest-growing white wine varieties in 2020 were Picpoul, Gewürztraminer, and Verdejo, and among the fastest-growing white wine brands were wineries from Germany (Peter Adler), Austria (Schplink), and even Moldova (Radacini).
“As the U.S. consumer continues to become more familiar and knowledgeable with wine, they are expanding their preference and choice toward white wines,” says Rossman, “which has become a large driver of growth in the white wine segment.”
In order to maximize sales, retailers should consider having a healthy stock of white wines chilled for consumers to purchase both in-store and online. “Cold wine is an excellent opportunity to get consumers to try new varietals,” says Rossman. Chilled products are especially important for smaller packaging formats, like cans. Additionally, price points tend to be higher for chilled wines, according to a Numerator survey conducted in 2020.