Do customers care about eco-conscious brands or sustainability when buying beer, wine or spirits?
We invited retailers to write their opinions on the question. The results were split down the middle. Here’s what was reported from the frontlines:
Melissa Surdyk, Owner, Surdyk’s Liquor & Cheese Shop
“If your average third grader can tell you the fundamentals of ‘being green’, you can guarantee the subject of sustainability is being discussed and implemented throughout the adult beverage industry.
Start with wine, where the use of the word ‘sustainability’ on the label has become as present as the fl avor description. But what does that mean? By law, nothing. However, it should imply that the winery has taken steps, either in the vineyard or during production, with economic and/or social responsibility in mind.
We are seeing organic designations in the spirit sector, with vodka and tequila leading the way. In the beer industry, ‘local’ seems to be the emphasis: sourcing malt and hops grown near the breweries. Even large distilleries are sourcing grain from local farms. And when the production process results in leftover waste, such as the mash from both whiskey and beer, it can be sold as livestock feed. Clearly, our customers are environmentally aware and it appears the industry is taking note.”
Dustin Mitzel, GM, Happy Harry’s Bottle Shop
Fargo, North Dakota
“While we have small organic sections in all of our stores, it has never been a focus of ours and, quite honestly, not a big category for customers. While we consider ourselves a progressive retailer, we just haven’t seen a large demand for those types of wines.
We do believe that as the organic movement gains momentum in the Midwest, we will adjust to accommodate our customers’ needs and wants. I would anticipate us creating even larger sections in our stores dedicated to sulfi te free/organic/etcetera — and educating our staff even further on the differences.”
Katie Harper, Head Wine Buyer, Bay Ridge Wine & Spirits
“Sustainability and organic farming practices have become important when educating consumers about wines they are purchasing.
As a buyer, it has always been important to me to support wines that are made from estates using sustainable practices. And I see the importance of this growing each year with our customers.
At our shop, we have an increase in the amount of customers searching for organic wines. We have POS on our shelves explaining the difference between sustainable, organic and biodynamic. We use these to start conversations with customers who might fi nd wine overwhelming or intimidating.
Responsible farming is where it all begins. It has an infl uence on the way the wine will taste when it gets to the table of your customer.
We recently had an environmental blogger come to our shop because he heard we had quite the biodynamic wine selection. He drives 30 minutes to shop with us because our selection is large and diverse. I see more of these customers each year.
The growth of this category is exciting. Wines that are farmed responsibly and tell the story of their vineyard are my favorite to sell!”
Josh Hammond, President, Buster’s Liquors & Wines
“While it’s a worthy endeavor witnessing more wineries move toward sustainability, the fact is that very few customers actually seek out green/ sustainable/organic products.
Not many wines in the market are labeled as such, and that makes it diffi cult for this category to grow. Consumers, I’m sure, appreciate sustainable methods, but in the end, they are truly searching out taste profi les above all.”
Kyle Swartz is associate editor of Beverage Dynamics magazine. Read his recent report on 4 alcohol trends for 2017 here.