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Grocery Stores Are the New Wine Shops

If it seems like your local supermarket is putting as much effort into selling wine as peddling tomatoes, toilet paper and laundry detergent, well, you’re right. And they may be cutting into the business of stand-alone wine merchants.

How big is wine for supermarkets?

Plenty big. In terms of dollars, it was the seventh biggest seller of every item in the market in 2014, ahead of coffee, cereal and even—gasp!—bacon. (In fact, last year supermarket wine sales rose by 3.7 percent, while sales of toilet paper dropped 0.2 percent. Ponder that next time you’re on the porcelain throne.)

Some 42 percent of all the wine sold in the U.S. last year was sold in supermarkets, which comes to almost $9 billion. And that’s despite the fact that wine is subject to all manner of sales restrictions in many states and can’t be sold at all in grocery stores in 15 states, including such major players as New York and Pennsylvania.

It’s not just the cheapest plonk we’re buying. The average bottle price of wine purchased in supermarkets is $9, not exactly Petrus territory but not Boone’s Farm either.

With those kinds of dollars at stake, supermarkets aren’t letting any arugula grow under their feet. With the support of grocers’ groups, legislators in many of the 15 prohibitionist states have introduced bills to allow wine sales; Tennessee recently passed such a law and the first applications have already been approved.

In states where grocery store wine sales are legal, stores are ramping up both their presentation and informational capabilities. Some have created in-store “wine shops,” mimicking the look of small specialty wine merchants, while others—like the giant Raley’s chain in California, have added “wine specialists” to their staffs to help consumers choose from among the thousands of bottles on display. Don’t worry, though. You can still pick up a box of cereal and a roll of toilet paper. . .

Categorized: Bulk Wine News