In an economic climate where many small businesses are struggling to survive, local wineries are experiencing a relative boom. “There are wineries in all 50 states,” says Nancy Childs, Ph.D., professor of food marketing at Saint Joseph’s University in Philadelphia. “Nationally, there has been a huge resurgence in viewing local wineries as an artisan craft. It parallels the movement of microbreweries.”
The upswing is anticipated to continue, prompting new research into the marketing strategies of small-scale wineries and public awareness of local wine vendors. The study, coauthored by Childs, will be published in the forthcoming issue of the International Journal of Wine and Business Research.
According to Childs, 90 percent of local wine sales occur on-site, or at the “cellar door” level, so marketing strategies need to focus on optimizing visitor attendance.
“Small wineries should be marketing at local farm stands, and integrate more with the local food movement,” says Childs. “That enables them to reach farther and encourage more people to come visit.
“We found that consumers are interested in the hedonics of wine—in the holistic enjoyment of food, wine and culture. It’s about the experience,” says Childs. “The bottom line is that visitors are looking for a leisure activity. They come for fun and they like food. Small wineries need to take advantage of that.” She suggests including a cheese plate or offering a lunch, which will also help draw in consumers who like to plan for a full day of activities.
Among consumers aware of local vineyards, the study found distinguishing characteristics between visitors and non-visitors. “Visitors tended to be more spontaneous,” says Childs, “whereas non-visitors were more schedule-oriented. Non-visitors need extra insurance to plan their trip. For marketing purposes, the winery may want to coordinate with other local activities or plug into the local food scene.
“People are placing more value and trust in the authenticity of what’s local,” says Childs. “The idea of the locavore movement penetrating into the winery arena is new. It plays an important role for local and state economies, but in a larger sense it is an eco or environmental issue. Awareness and appreciation of local agrarian endeavors helps to protect open space and enrich the eco-system.”