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    The volume of wine choices on many grocers' shelves these days gives just about a quarter of all wine consumers a hangover. Ongoing research indicates that these overwhelmed shoppers are the biggest segment of wine consumers, and they need more help making choices.

    Almost one-quarter of wine consumers admit to feeling overwhelmed by the sheer volume of choices on store shelves, according to the latest results of an ongoing research project called Project Genome, conducted for St. Helena, Calif.-based Constellation Wines U.S.

    This year's research built upon an original 2005 survey of 3,500 wine consumers. The new phase examined purchase patterns of 10,000 premium wine consumers over 18 months, via Progressive Grocer parent The Nielsen Company's Homescan consumer purchase panel.

    Nielsen measured consumer attitudes and purchase behavior in channels including supermarkets, warehouse clubs, mass merchandisers, drug stores, liquor stores, and wine shops. The study also included Nielsen's custom Spectra analysis overlaid with online interviews to classify the surveyed consumers under Project Genome's consumer segments.

    The original study had found that just as there are lots more types of wine than red or white, there was no single type of premium wine consumer. Rather, consumers tended to fall into one of six segments: Enthusiasts, Image Seekers, Savvy Shoppers, Traditionalists, Satisfied Sippers, and the Overwhelmed.

    The largest segment, Overwhelmed, accounts for 23 percent of consumers, who are also starved for information about the category. The study found that they:

    • Like to drink wine, but don't know what kind to buy, and might select by label alone
    • Look for wine information in retail settings that's easy to understand
    • Are very open to advice, but frustrated when there's no one in the wine section to help
    • Won't buy anything at all if the information available is confusing

    Among the new insights into the other segments:

    Enthusiasts (12 percent of consumers)

    • Entertain at home with friends, and consider themselves knowledgeable about wine
    • Live in cosmopolitan centers, affluent suburban spreads, or comfortable country settings
    • Like to browse the wine section and wine publications, and are influenced by wine ratings and reviews
    • Forty-seven percent of them buy wine in the 1.5-liter size -- "everyday wine" to supplement their "weekend wine"
    • Almost all of them (98 percent) buy wine priced over $6, which accounts for 56 percent of what they buy on a volume basis

    Image Seekers (20 percent):

    • View wine as a status symbol
    • Have a basic knowledge of wine, and discovering wines is new to them
    • Like to be the first to try a new wine, and are open to innovative packaging
    • Pick Merlot as their No. 1 most-purchased varietal
    • Use the Internet as a key information source, including checking restaurant wine lists before they dine out

    Savvy Shoppers (15 percent):

    • Enjoy shopping for wine and discovering new varietals on their own
    • Have a few favorite wines to supplement new discoveries
    • Shop in a variety of stores each week to find best deals, and like specials and discounts
    • Are heavy coupon users, and know what's on sale before they walk into a store
    • When dining out, they typically choose a glass of the house wine for the value it offers

    Traditionalists (16 percent):

    • Enjoy wines from established wineries
    • Think wine makes an occasion more formal and prefer entertaining friends and family
    • Like to be offered a wide variety of well-known national brands
    • Won't often try new wine brands
    • Shop at retail locations that make it easy to find favorite brands

    Satisfied Sippers (14 percent):

    • Don't know much about wine, just know what they like to drink
    • Usually buy the same brand, usually domestic, and consider wine an everyday beverage
    • Don't enjoy the wine-buying experience so buy 1.5-liter bottles to have more wine on hand
    • Comprise the second-biggest category of warehouse shoppers, buying 16 percent of wine in club stores
    • Don't dine out often, but are likely to order the house wine when they do

    "This Project Genome research can help the industry in many areas, from marketing to consumer education, and will serve as a tool in the marketing of our wines," said Jose Fernandez, c.e.o. of Constellation Wines North America.

    Constellation Wines U.S. encompasses three wine businesses: VineOne, Icon Estates, and Centerra Wine Co. CWUS is an operating division of Constellation Brands, Inc., an international producer and marketer of beverage alcohol in the wine, spirits, and imported beer categories.

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