Why would a wine person be interested in a conference about global health?
There are a number of ways to answer that question, and they are each touch points that reflect some of the most salient and challenging themes currently facing the wine and spirits industry.
In today’s post I consider four such themes that rose to the surface for me as, earlier this month, I attended virtually the 2021 Global Wellness Summit hosted by Miami-based Global Wellness Institute. None of these themes outlined below were explicitly wine-oriented during the conference, which is to say that there was no speaker or panel or keynote dedicated to the topic of health and wine, or even the more general topics of wellness and alcohol.
Nonetheless, these themes struck me as relevant to the conversation about the evolution and future of wine consumption, here in the US and at a global scale as well.
An Aging Population — Of Women in Particular
Research into the demographics of wine consumption has, in recent years, emphasized the increasing reliance on older consumers (those age 55 and above) without enough compensatory “buy in” from younger adults of legal drinking age. This research has raised concerns not only about the commercial implications of targeting consumers at different ends of the disposable income spectrum, but also about shifting taste preferences and alcohol tolerance levels as the target demographic gets older.
As media personality Stacy London pointed out in her presentation at the Global Wellness Summit, approximately one billion people (or 12 percent of the world’s population) are currently experiencing symptoms of menopause. That statistic combines, dangerously in most cases, with numerous references to the insufficient medical research dedicated to women specifically that was highlighted during the Summit by Carolee Lee of WHAM: Women’s Health Access Matters and others.
It’s a confluence of problematics that are knocking at the wine industry’s door: a consumer base globally that’s only getting older, plus inadequate understanding of alcohol’s biological impact especially according to gender.
Public Health Investment
Debate and conversation has increased recently about alcohol companies’ role in encouraging more responsible, “smart drinking.” One train of thought in this area is generated by researchers who study behavior change for public health campaigns; experts in corporate social responsibility offer commentary on these conversations as well. Their dialogue dovetails with painful, even brutal lessons from the global pandemic, which amplified the risks and costs of under-investing in public health.
Travel + Wine + Wellness
It’s no big surprise that tourism, and “wellness tourism” in particular, took a major hit during 2020. However, several Summit speakers underscored the expectation that travel is coming back “very strong,” and that wellness travel specifically will do even better post-COVID. That expectation can feasibly weave together nicely for the wine industry with a second COVID-influenced shift, namely the wave of interest by “new travelers” who focus on a quest for nature, sustainability and mental wellness. Wineries looking to boost their foot traffic can emphasize “wellness programming,” particularly if it’s outdoors, as well as environmentally-focused education.
Circadian Rhythm Research
Travel across multiple time zones has, in non-COVID times, been part-and-parcel of a wine industry professional’s reality. I can relate. Which is why I was surprised, pleasantly so, by the abundance of research presented at the Summit about “clock time” versus natural circadian clocks. Circadian science companies (yes, there are such things) address the health problems that result when those two “clocks” do not align. The companies’ apps and technologies will solve for many different circadian disruptions, and “shift” our clocks back to true circadian time. That’s great news for the long-haul travelers, shift workers, and multiple-time-zone workers among us.