Category on the Rise: Natural, Organic, and Biodynamic Wine
After years on the fringe, organic and biodynamic wines are now gaining mainstream appeal
Natural wine has been around for centuries, but until recently, the category was mainly relegated to the fringes of the mainstream wine world. That began to change during the last few years as more U.S. consumers sought out eco-friendly and “better-for-you” alcohol beverage options. Today, demand for natural wines — along with organic and biodynamic wines — is steadily increasing and showing signs of future growth.
Because there is no regulated definition of natural wine — loosely described by industry organizations as additive-free wines made with organic, biodynamic, or sustainable* practices — sales can be difficult to track. However, Nielsen data show that off-premise sales of organic and biodynamic wines have surged during the last four years. For the 52 weeks ending March 20, 2021, organic wine sales totaled $154 million, compared to just $27.2 million for the 52 weeks ending March 25, 2017. Year-over-year, organic wine sales increased 21 percent by value and nearly 17 percent by volume.
For biodynamic wine, dollar sales for the 52 weeks ending March 20, 2021 totaled $6 million — a more than 700 percent increase over four years ago. Over the previous year, dollar sales increased 33 percent and volume sales grew 27 percent. And according to analysis by trend forecasting firm Exploding Topics, global searches for natural wine have increased 150 percent over the last five years.
These gains come as no surprise to Edward Field, owner and president of Natural Merchants, an Oregon-based importer of natural wines from Europe and South America. Now in its 17th year of business, the company specializes in organic, biodynamic, vegan, and no-sulfites-added (NSA) wines.
“2020 was one of our best years yet, with an increase in sales of 28 percent over 2019,” he says. “Now that the world is starting to open up again in the wake of Covid-19, sustainability is more top-of-mind than ever before, and eco-aware consumers are looking to continue taking care of themselves as well as the planet.”
In particular, Field has seen increased interest in vegan wines. “Vegan wine as a category has shown tremendous growth, seeming to mirror the growth of consumers adopting a vegan diet,” he explains. “Retailers nationwide are looking to extend their offerings, and vegan wine sections are popping up in stores across the country, alongside their existing organic and biodynamic offerings.”
On Drizly, the natural, organic, and biodynamic wine category — which includes organic, biodynamic, vegan, sustainable, and NSA wines — accounted for less than one percent share of total wine sales during the last year. However, year-over-year sales grew 400 percent, compared to 350 percent overall sales growth on Drizly.
“Though the natural wine category remains small relative to the overall wine sales,” notes Liz Paquette, Drizly’s head of consumer insights, “growing consumer interest in health-conscious drinks — seen in the rise of categories like hard kombucha and nonalcoholic drinks across all categories — makes it one to watch in the coming years.”
By exploring data from across the Drizly platform, retailers can tap into natural, organic, and biodynamic wine trends to maximize sales in the years to come.
Inside the Top Natural, Organic, and Biodynamic Wines and Markets
While interest in the natural, organic, and biodynamic wine category spans the country, a handful of markets see more sales share on Drizly compared to other regions, including New York City, Denver, Los Angeles, Washington D.C., and Long Island.
Because many natural wineries have small production capacities due to labor-intensive techniques like hand-harvesting, organic, biodynamic, and vegan wines typically rank higher than true natural wines on Drizly. **
Natural Wine’s Future
In the coming years, Field predicts that the natural wine category will continue its steady growth. “We are projecting a 30 percent increase in sales this year and are on track to meet or surpass that goal,” he says. “More and more mainstream grocery chains are expressing interest in the entire organic wine category, including biodynamic.”
As wine producers become more transparent about their farming and winemaking practices, Paquette expects demand for natural wines to grow as well. “As consumers express more interest in what is in the wine they are drinking and how it is produced, brands will put more emphasis on creating clarity in their marketing,” she says. “We predict consumers will increasingly reach for natural brands and bottles as they seek more transparency and ‘better-for-you’ wines that are also better for the environment.”
*April 28, 2021: Updated to clarify that Drizly category data includes sustainable wines, which includes producers who work organically but are not certified organic.
**May 19, 2021: Updated to remove a section of this article which highlighted top brands and products on Drizly due to potential inaccuracies in brand and product specific data