Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Is the Wine Industry a Growing One?

Back in 2004 I started up WineTalent after years of dreaming about it. I had always enjoyed working with winery professionals. I also believe that great talent is needed to continue to push the industry forward.

One of my first WineTalent meetings was with an industry veteran. He asked me why I was focusing solely on the wine industry, and didn't I think there wasn't much future in the industry. I started sweating bullets. What? I was thinking it was a growing industry. I wanted to focus on the wine industry because I believe a focused approach in business is the best. I also thought there was enough business to sustain a recruiting company for the unforseeable future. I stuck to my guns and expressed those thoughts to him. Luckily, he was only playing devil's advocate, and agreed that the industry was seeing a lot of growth, that there were a lot of changes coming to the industry, and that dedicated, personalized service is a very good approach in the wine industry.

Fast forward to 2009. The US and world economy is reeling from the meltdown of 2008. Wine companies are feeling the squeeze from people not eating out as often, and from people trading down to lower priced wine. But the bright spot is that wine consumption is up. For decades the US consumed more beer than other alcoholic beverages, and only about three years ago did wine consumption eclipse that of other alcoholic beverages. Wine has also been embraced by the millenial generation--those coming of adulthood in 2000 or later. The Millenials are a large generation, second to the baby boomers I believe. Much of the snobbery of wine is being replaced by enjoyment of wine with family and friends in a social atmosphere. This is all good news for wineries, wine employees, and related services, such as me.

With the rising tide of lay-offs I am getting more calls than ever from people hoping to make the move from another industy into wine. Are they just looking to do it because they are drinking more wine--hopefully not. I do believe that most of these people enjoy learning about and drinking wine, and would like to combine that interest with a career in an expanding industry.

I counsel people regularly about switching industries. While many positions require previous wine and spirits experience, there are several positions that can easily allow a career transition. Another point that I mention to people is that many of the people in the wine industry have themselves made a career path move to get into the wine industry. These career-switchers are somewhat more open to looking at people with diverse job experience, and will take the time to discuss possible areas of employment. It isn't that far off that a highly successful person has decided to take some of her earnings and start up a winery. This leap is celebrated often--and can be duplicated on a smaller scale in lots of winery jobs.

So, I do see that there are many areas of growth in the wine industry, and that it is a business with some transition possibilities. It is never a snap to make a industry change, but it is better to look to go into a growing industry than a stagnant or shrinking one.


winemark said...

There seems to be little doubt that the wine industry as a whole is more resistant to recent economic downturns. The main negative impact seems limited to the related tourist industry. This makes it a very attractive transitional industry from various sales, marketing or hospitality related fields.

My personal transition success (with some great advice from Amy) was to focus on smaller, family owned wineries rather than the larger corporate owned organizations. Recently, Kendall-Jackson reported a 20% reduction in workforce, while family wineries struggle to find quality help.

Naturally, the smaller wineries cannot compensate as much as some others but friends of mine who want to transition into the industry are prepared to take a huge pay cut in order to make their dream job happen.

Amy said...

Great input winemark. Thanks for your thoughts