Wine and spirits sales in grocery, drug and liquor stores enjoyed a “holiday bounce” in the four weeks ending Jan. 10, according to new figures from The Nielsen Co.
Wine sales increased more that 5 percent over the Christmas and New Year’s holidays in 2008 from the same period in 2007, while dollar sales growth in the fourth quarter slowed to 3.6 percent from full-year growth of 6.4 percent. Growth in the number of cases sold ebbed from 3.2 percent for 2008 to 1.9 percent in the fourth quarter.
Danny Brager, vice president and Beverage Alcohol Group client director, noted that retail promotional spending was lower in late 2008 than the year before, so the bump could have come from two extra business days in 2008 or a combination of consumer “cocooning” and gift-giving.
“They’re benefiting from a trend toward more in-home entertaining and more modest spending on gifts, from big-ticket items like wide-screen TVs to more modest gifts like wine and spirits, which provide a way to relax from the stress of the economy,” he said during a mid-February presentation of the figures. “I suspect those growth periods will come back down to pre-holiday levels.”
The seven-member Cork Quality Council distributor group has lowered its threshold for the mold compound 2,4,6-trichloroanisole, or TCA, allowed in random samples of incoming shipments of cork stoppers from European suppliers.
Members of the Forestville-based council were finding that only 4 percent of stoppers represented in tests at ETS Laboratories in St. Helena were having to be sent back because they exceeded the previous limit of 2 parts per trillion for the often-fingered wine-taint culprit, according to council Executive Director Peter Weber. As of the beginning of this year, the standard is 1.5 parts per trillion.
“One reason we went with the new standard is that almost everything is passing,” he said. “We need to have teeth with the standards.”
When screening started in 2002, the average was 4 parts per trillion, with only 58 percent testing below 2 parts per trillion.
Australia-based Foster’s Group, which produces North Coast wines such as Beringer, Souverain and Chateau St. Jean, said it won’t get out of the wine business but will restructure the effort, including a split of the beer and wine operations and a new managing director for the Napa-based Americas unit.
As part of a report on financial performance in the first half of its fiscal year, Foster’s announced that a review of its wine business undertaken in April 2008 concluded now wouldn’t be a good time to sell the operations, given the current worldwide banking crisis, according to Chairman David Crawford.
“The performance of our wine business has been unsatisfactory,” he said in the report. “In large part, this has been the product of poor execution in the Americas and pursuing a multi-beverage model in Australia.”
Today Foster’s also announced it would soon replace its managing directors for wine operations in the Americas and Australia, including Scott Weiss, managing director of the Americas group and part of the company since the acquisition of Southcorp in 2004.