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Celebrities have long used their faces and names to elevate liquor brands, but George Clooney created the modern blueprint for profiting from spirits when he sold his Casamigos tequila company to spirits giant Diageo for almost $100. one billion dollars in 2017.
“Before, that was how I paid the rent,” Clooney told The Sunday Times following the deal. “But I sold a tequila business for a billion f***** dollars – I don’t need the money.”
It sparked a gold rush of celebrity entrepreneurs seeking to recreate its success and cash in on the trend for premium spirits and cocktails, ranging from David Beckham’s scotch to Ryan Reynolds’ gin and Dwayne’s tequila.” The Rock” Johnson.
But it is mostly male celebrities who have been able to take advantage of this formula. Despite outliers, such as Vera Wang’s Chopin Vodka and Kendall Jenner’s 818 Tequila, the brands remain predominantly male, echoing a trend historically present in the broader spirits industry.
Now, a new wave of female stars are getting into an alcohol that needs a boost: wine.
The Covid-19 pandemic has accelerated many trends in the alcohol industry, but one of the biggest winners has been premium spirits in categories often endorsed by celebrities. Luxury spirits have grown 43% over the past year, driven primarily by tequila and American whiskey, with the 2021 growth rate more than double the average rate for the past five years, according to the Distilled Spirits Council.
The US wine market is the largest in the world and products like prosecco and champagne continue to thrive, but US consumers are drinking less wine overall than 20 years ago.
Currently, baby boomers are the only group that prefers wine over other alcoholic products, while the highest per capita spending on alcohol is in the 35-55 age bracket.
This posed a significant challenge for the industry, which struggles to attract young drinkers.
“The spirits category is killing it right now, as are ready-to-drink cocktails, and tequila is on fire in spirits,” said longtime spirits industry analyst Danny Brager. alcohol. And since the overall purchase of alcohol doesn’t increase much from year to year, “if someone drinks more of one thing, they drink less of something else,” Brager added.
Excessive markups on wine in restaurants don’t help. According to a Nielsen survey, a five-ounce serving of wine costs 72% more than a serving of spirits and nearly 50% more than a serving of beer.
Rob McMillan, executive vice president of Silicon Valley Bank and renowned wine industry analyst, said the wine industry has remained committed to strategies that have historically been successful, without sufficiently considering the radical changes of the consumer.
“That’s the main threat,” McMillan said. “You can’t replace that group of people who thought of wine as something really special. It’s their favorite alcoholic drink, and everyone who comes after that identifies with wine to some degree, but they put wine in the same category as beer, spirits, ready-to-drink cocktails – cannabis for that matter.”
In Silicon Valley Bank’s State of the Wine Industry 2022 report, he highlights “the industry’s failure to evolve marketing that resonates with the values of young people.”
Wine brands supported by female celebrities have sought to differentiate themselves from other wine offerings, promoting concepts more in line with the desires of young consumers.
With attention paid to size, low alcohol content, online shopping, price and brand ownership that includes women as well as BIPOC and LGBTQ+ people, female celebrities have sought to carve out a niche in the wine sector which attracts young consumers.
A short list of female stars who are partnering with wineries and producers to market wines aimed at meeting these changing consumer demands includes Elizabeth Banks, Mary J. Blige, The Chicks, Cameron Diaz, Chrissie Metz, Vera Wang and Reese Witherspoon.
Diaz and Katherine Power, co-owners of the Avaline wine brand, tackled affordability and portability, as well as health and wellness trends with organic white and rosé wines in four-packs of 250ml cans that do not require a corkscrew or glassware. In addition to being more sustainable, the concept of wine in a can with its smaller portions also makes it easier to drink wine solo, since it is not necessary to open a 750 ml bottle, following the example of the booming RTD (ready to drink) market.
Actress and producer Elizabeth Banks is also emphasizing sustainability as well as packaging and affordability with her own canned wine initiative, Archer Roose Wine.
A wine industry seeking greater brand appeal
Tim McKirdy, editor of spirits-focused website VinePair, said the trend of female celebrity-backed wines has accelerated over the past two years.
“Wine has always had a very high barrier of entry, and it’s always been difficult to navigate, especially if you’ve just entered this space,” McKirdy said. “So if you have a celebrity trying to say this is wine you can get on board, this is wine you can drink and no one is going to judge you, or hey, all the information is on the label here you can find all the ingredients, you can’t find any additives, labels like gluten free, those are things I think people feel comfortable with,” he said. .
Female wine celebrities are also finding ways to pass on their ethics to younger consumers who value brand values.
The Chicks, known for standing up for themselves as women in the music industry and challenging the status quo, recently entered the wine market with their Gaslighter Wine label, which received high marks in the industry for its rosé. The marketing campaign begins with messages such as “lay down your power”, “speak your truth”. Even the caps read, “Don’t let them fool you.”
Mary J. Blige’s Sun Goddess label emphasizes diversity, according to Marco Fantinel, CEO of the winery producing Blige’s label. Sun Goddess “hopes to shine a light on the wine industry” by creating “more opportunities for women and for BIPOC representation,” Fantinel said.
“I think that’s the slice of the wine market that a lot of people are trying to capture because that’s the one that’s slipping away,” McKirdy said. “Young consumers consider these values to be strong, so if they see those from a brand they care about, they are more likely to be loyal or even more likely to spend a few extra dollars to have the spirit rest assured that where their money goes matches their personal values,” he added.
Sun Goddess Wines on display at the Atlanta Fan Screening of “Mary J. Blige’s My Life” at IPIC Theaters at Colony Square on June 22, 2021 in Atlanta, Georgia
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According to the Spirited Change Initiative, alcohol brands owned by minorities and women make up less than 5% of the industry.
The focus on the needs and values of young consumers leads McKirdy to predict that female celebrity wine brands will eventually lead to a wider audience, “feeling included in the world of wine.”
“It’s a traditional industry,” McMillan said. “There are things we do that help move the industry forward and are successful, so eventually we’ll get there, it’ll just be different when we do.”
The presence of famous women in wine can add the exposure and financial support needed for further growth in a wine industry becoming more accessible, economical and forward-thinking, while maintaining quality. Though the day has yet to come for this star-side hustle to achieve the billion-dollar title of its spirits counterpart.
—Additional CNBC reports Lea Collins