By Dr Kathy Kelley--Professor of Horticultural Marketing and Business Management, Abigail Miller-- Master's student in the Penn State Plant Sciences Department, and Dana Ollendyke-- Extension Associate
In 2014, researchers at Penn State, Rutgers, Cornell, and New York University collaborated on a wine marketing study funded by the USDA. Data were collected through a 15-minute Internet survey (22-24 October 2014). Participants residing in New Jersey, New York, and Pennsylvania were screened for not being a member of the wine industry, being at least 21 years old, and for having purchased and drank wine at least once within the previous year. A total of 977 participants qualified and completed the survey.
With approximately “81% of [Pennsylvania wine] sold directly from wineries” (http://bit.ly/1LygxFl), one of the issues we investigated in last year’s survey was what a winery could offer to encourage winery tasting room visits and increase the frequency of these visits. While, in some cases, we investigated broad categories and factors, we have plans to delve deeper in an upcoming survey to see what could motivate consumers to visit a winery tasting room and barriers survey participants feel prevents them from visiting.
Interest in winery activities and events
Today’s visitors do much more than just taste the wine at a tasting room; rather, there are opportunities to tour the vineyard and the wine-making facility, participate in classes, attend festivals, and much more (http://bit.ly/1JtOEHK).
But should a winery go through the process of planning, implementing, and evaluating an event or activity?
Data from a study conducted by researchers at Texas A&M University and Sam Houston University showed that, for Texas wineries, there was “a positive correlation between wineries that offer services such as tasting rooms and tours and gross sales… [thus] the more tourism services a winery offers, the higher their potential for gross sales” (http://bit.ly/1NSBgRx),
OK, so, with all that could be offered – what activities and/or events might garner the greatest consumer interest?
Though not an exhaustive list, we focused on activities and events that were more commonly found when we investigated wineries online and also based on popular press articles. As an example, an event that has been offered at some wineries and restaurants is a “Paint Nite,” during which attendees paint a certain picture by following an instructor while enjoying wine or other alcoholic beverages (for example, https://www.paintnite.com/). We were interested in learning if this activity appealed to our participants, and, if so, how much. Below is a table with data pertaining to the level of interest our participants expressed based on the seven activities/events that we tested.
As you can see, “tasting events,” “tour of the winery and vineyard,” and “food vendors from local restaurants,” were the three activities that had the highest level of interest (86.3%, 83.0%, and 78.9%, respectively), and are often interdependent of each other.
It makes sense that if someone is going to visit a winery tasting room that they would be interested in tasting the wine, but there are opportunities to offer “tasting events” that go a beyond the norm – perhaps they could be based on a theme, focus on your new release, be an exclusive tasting with limited seating, or your winery tasting room could be one of the stops on a local food tour.
And, although separate categories in our survey, winery tastings and tours are a natural pairing. Most likely you already offer a tour and subsequent tasting, but can you take your standard tour and split it up into several? The goal of this strategy would be to encourage even more frequent visits.
Château Élan Winery & Resort located in Atlanta, GA offers six different tour options, five are private and one is offered on a regular basis. While all six tours end in a tasting, each is unique with a different focus (http://www.chateauelan.com). The private tours focuses on each of the following: 1) the vat room, 2) the wine making process, 3) the vineyard, 4) an experience with the wine maker, and 5) a session on other Georgia food products.
More data on winery activities and events will be discussed in part 2 of this series.
Additional Research and Thesis Advisory Team Members:
• Jeffrey Hyde, Professor, Agricultural Economics, The Pennsylvania State University
• Denise Gardener, Extension Enologist, Department of Food Science, The Pennsylvania State University
• Brad Rickard, Assistant Professor, Charles H. Dyson School of Applied Economics and Management, Cornell University
• Ramu Govindasamy, Professor, Department of Agricultural, Food and Resource Economics, Rutgers University
• Karl Storchmann, Clinical Professor, Economics Department, New York University; Managing Editor, Journal of Wine Economics
• Rob Crassweller, Professor, Professor of Tree Fruit, The Pennsylvania State
The project “Developing Wine Marketing Strategies for the Mid-Atlantic Region” (GRANT 11091317) is being funded by a USDA Federal-State Marketing Improvement Program grant, whose goal is “to assist in exploring new market opportunities for U.S. food and agricultural products and to encourage research and innovation aimed at improving the efficiency and performance of the marketing system.” For more information about the program, visit http://www.ams.usda.gov.