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Crystal Ball 2015: Industry Veterans Peer Into the Near-ish Future

Posted on  | December 22, 2014   Bookmark and Share
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Seems like ages ago that people were worrying about the advent of the Millennium bug, and that the bursting of the dotcom bubble had tarnished the prospect of the Internet as a hub for business transactions. Of course, those were also the days when cell phones were only used as a temporary communications device until we got back to our land lines.

The alcoholic beverage industry has also changed rapidly during those 15 years—in terms of what brands we sell, how we sell them, how we price them and who buys them.

So what comes next?  We asked a cross-section of industry experts what they saw in their crystal balls for 2015 —what trends would accelerate and which ones are in danger. Here are their thoughts.



Our focus will turn  from Millennials toward….

“Of interest for 2015 is that by the end of the year, every person defined as a Millennial will be of legal drinking age. In January of 2016, we’ll all be talking about the ‘iGeneration’ and whether they will become wine drinkers. Stay tuned for that.”
– John Gillespie, Wine Market Council

Devices will expand as primary information channels.

“The impact of mobile devices and tablets for receiving and communicating wine information will continue to increase mainly in areas of accessibility [‘Help me get information where I am…’] and immediacy [‘Give it to me now’].”

– Michael Mondavi,

Michael Mondavi Family businesses

Mobile or bust?

“Word of mouth isn’t word of mouth any more. The only way you can reach the younger demographics is on their smart phone.”
– David Moore,
Moore Brothers retail wine stores

Tech will have a  humanizing impact.

“The younger generation sits at the bar with a drink in one hand and a cell phone in the other. They can Google anything at the bar and get information.  They want to be talked to, not talked at. They want stories.”

– Norman Bonchick, Van Gogh Imports



Watch craft distillers for leading indicators.

“Big producers will be forced to consider the small producers more seriously, and not only as competition, but also as a low-cost means to test products before launching.”

– Ralph Erenzo, Tuthilltown Spirits

Next up in craft?

“Applejack will be reinvented, and a whole palette of flavors will spread out with brandy and eau-de-vies.”

– William Owens,

American Distilling Institute

[He cautions, however, that shortages may slow craft spirits expansion: Orders for premium stills are taking a year or more to fill; aging barrels from American oak are on back order; and most aged bulk whiskey for blending has been bought up.]

The spirits market  is nearing saturation.

“In the last two years, there have been 1,500 new spirits products or product extensions. People are risking a lot of money because the market can’t absorb that. The bar isn’t getting any longer.”

– Norman Bonchick

Craft distilling will bring positive changes to rural America.

“In addition to increased tax revenues, craft production will create an increase in rural employment opportunities, new markets for small farmers and blossoming of tourism activity.”

– Ralph Erenzo

Craft spirits will prosper…and be gobbled up.

“As with craft beers, entrepreneurial craft spirits will continue their retail-driven growth, with many inevitably being acquisition targets by the established distillers.”

– Peter Morrell, industry consultant, former CEO, Morrell and Co

Where is vodka Headed?

“It’s great that someone wants to sit down and savor a craft rye. But instant gratification is part of going out and having a good time, and vodka

provides that.”

– Norman Bonchick



Stock is rising for smaller Champagne producers.

“Any major restaurant will have a selection of grower Champagnes on its wine menu these days to be taken seriously. Just having Dom Perignon won’t cut it anymore.”

– David Moore

Green will gain momentum.

“‘Organic’ and ‘sustainable’ will continue to gather more momentum as quality signifiers, despite the fact that they are in and of themselves pretty empty of meaning. Biodynamic certification, I believe, carries far more gravitas, and ‘dry-farmed’ will also, I predict, carry a strong qualitative connotation.”

– Randall Grahm, Bonny Doon Vineyard

Direct-to-consumer wine sales will expand.

“The growth of direct-to-consumer sales both from wineries and Internet sources is very impressive, even if from a small base. Most industry observers expect this growth to continue.”

– John Gillespie

Ties between wineries and consumers will continue to get closer as more winemakers serve as brand ambassadors.

“Our business is unusual in that respect. You don’t see the president of GM going out to meet customers.”
– Brian Larky,

Dalla Terra Winery Direct

Provenance will be more relevant than ever.

“American drinkers want to know where their wines come from, whether it’s Cabernet Sauvignon from DiamondMountain, Chardonnay from Dry Creek or Champagne from only Champagne.”

Sam Heitner, Champagne Bureau US

There will be a pushback (finally) against high-alcohol wine.

“It may be too early to predict this with certainty, but there has to be a backlash against all of the high-alcohol Napa Valley Cabernets.”

– Randall Grahm

Classic aperitifs are coming back.

“In the most-sophisticated U.S. urban markets, French and Italian aperitifs will see greater opportunities, especially when driven by on-premise somms and cocktail gurus. More and more, Campari, Lillet Blonde and Punt e Mes will find their [justified] place in home bars.”

 – Peter Morrell

The split between the big guys and little guys will grow.

“Consolidation at the top will continue to serve consumers who just want something affordable and good to drink, while the small producer and distributor will rely more on personal relations with consumers who want to know the story behind what they are drinking.”

– Brian Larky



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