Riesling & Korean dishes, Cabernet Sauvignon & Argentinean cuisine: Internet tools to help you learn about consumer groups who have a need for your wine

By: Kathy Kelley and Dana Ollendyke, Penn State Extension Associate

In the marketing world, we constantly discuss strategies to increase sales, and these conversations often focus on two options – sell more to your current customers or find new ones.

Most people would agree that it is much easier to meet current customers’ needs and demands because you already have a relationship with them. Therefore, your promotion and advertising “costs” (time and money) should be less than what you might need to acquire new customers.

Imagine that you are looking for new markets to sell your wine to because:

  • your wine production volume has increased,
  • you feel you have exhausted the local market and have done your best to attract visitors looking for a tasting room experience, and/or
  • it is essential to investigate new opportunities.

When you first developed your tasting room business plan, you probably gave some thought as to how you would market to consumers and how you would identify potential clientele. If it has been awhile since you’ve reviewed your business plan, you will likely need to update it since your business has probably changed over the years. (This article provides some good direction on when to update your business plan.)

Perhaps you not only thought about how you would attract and meet the needs of consumers based on their generation, consumption frequency, and when they drink wine (e.g. while cooking, watching sports, at restaurants), but maybe you even gave some consideration to learning about how different cultures approach wine and include (or exclude) wine from their diets.

We subscribe to several different online newsletters and journals, some of which are international, and regardless of the newsletter/journal’s origin, there is often an article about how a large brand, wine company, or group of wineries are looking to export to emerging markets. Along with providing information about current wine consumption and predictions, wine preferences, and how wine should be presented in the marketing place (cork vs. screw cap), these articles discuss the population of these foreign lands in terms of growth trends, major population centers, generational distribution, major ethnic groups and races, gender breakdown, employment rate, etc. — all of which can help a business determine the viability of the market and to whom/where to market the product.

Though the goal of these articles is to provide information for targeting wine consumers overseas, the information provided can certainly be useful for targeting wine consumers in the U.S. with specific racial and ethnic heritages.

But how should you begin crafting a strategy to target these consumers?

Winery tasting room owners/operators may be familiar with “who” lives in their city or county, but if you need a refresher or have never really delved into the demographic makeup of these residents, information can be found online in multiple places.

At the top of the list is the US Census Bureau. Census data is presented in multiple ways including:

  • infographics (an example is presented in image 1, below)
  • interactive maps
  • audio
  • photos
  • publications
  • video
  • working papers
  • software.

Image 1. Infographic displaying the changes in the number of foreign-born residents in the U.S. (1960 to 2010) and their native countries (Source: U.S. Census Bureau).


Imagine that you read an article about which alcoholic beverages pair well with authentic Chinese food and you learned that Rieslings are a good choice since “they go well with Chinese cuisine because the mouth-feel is quite refreshing…the range of dry to sweet Rieslings can match all types of Chinese food, plus it’s never too heavy, but rather fresh and fruity.” Now you begin to think about (a) how you could inform current customers that your wines pair well with this popular cuisine (this article provides suggested pairings for “Americanized Chinese” takeout – which also suggests Riesling as being an appropriate choice) and (b) how you could promote your Riesling to the Chinese consumers who may live in your region.

One of the first things you want to do for (b) is to learn whether there is a population of Chinese consumers in your county or metro area (and city if the population is large enough) and how many are age 21 and older. For this example, we used the State College, PA metropolitan area as the location for learning about the existence and number of adults who responded during the 2010 Census that they were “Chinese (except Taiwanese) alone or in any combination.”

The tool we are demonstrating also allows us to search for data for “Chinese alone or in any combination” (which would include Taiwanese) and “Taiwanese alone or in any combination.” Hence, you can get fairly specific with your data requests. (The “alone or in any combination” means that the data describes those who indicated on their Census form that they were only Chinese as well as Chinese consumers who indicated that they were also of another race/ethnicity).

The abbreviated table below provides the following information: Total Chinese population (3,360 individuals in the State College, PA metropolitan area), as well as a breakdown by age range (e.g. 68.1% of these individuals were 21 and older in 2010), and the number of males who were between the ages of 20 and 24 (524 or 15.6% of the total population of Chinese).

Image 2. A portion of a table that describes the total population of Chinese (except Taiwanese) and breakdown by age range and other characteristics based on the 2010 U.S. Census.


There are many ways to build tables like the one presented for this demonstration. We simply used “metro/micro statistical area within state” and “Race and Hispanic Origin” as our search criteria and then selected the “DP-1 Profile of General Population and Housing Characteristics: 2010” (Image 3).

Image 3. Search fields and options available to create tables like that in Image 2 (From the US Census Bureau website)


One caveat is that data is only available if more than 100 individuals are in the group you are investigating. For example, with the State College metropolitan area being less populated than other metro areas in the state, there were not enough “Argentineans,” “Nicaraguans,” or others from select South American countries to create tables (though we were able to learn that at the time of the 2010 Census, there were 651 “South Americans” residing in the metro area). In contrast, data for the much larger metropolitan Philadelphia area showed that there were 2,336 Argentineans residing in this location.   If there is a large population of Argentineans in your area and you want to promote a wine that will pair well with traditional “pork dishes and rich, winter-warming meat stews” then you would focus on your Cabernet Sauvignon (http://bit.ly/LjvC0R).

EASI Demographics User Friendly Tool

At times, the U.S. Census data can be overwhelming to search through (we admit that it took us a while to find, figure out how to develop the tables, and make changes), so you may want to access other tools that make the Census data more “user friendly.” Easy Analytic Software Inc (EASI) is an example of one of the tools that I often use to obtain consumer demographic information. EASI provides both paid and free options that allow users to more easily search Census data (instructions for navigating to the free tools can be found here).

Image 4 shows how we created a “Free Complete Report & Analysis.” There are many report options: population by ethnic race, age, sex, etc. and this one will give you more information that you may need, but you’ll see in Image 5 that it provides a nice breakdown of population by country of origin. We often use the EASI Ring Study as it provides data based on radiuses you select (we used 10, 30, and 50 miles) from an address you provide (we used a Harrisburg, PA address for this example).

Image 4. Criteria used (address and three radiuses) to create a Free Complete Report & Analysis. Click the “Locate!” button after you enter the address in box 1. Then click “Create Site Study” to access the data you requested.


Image 5a. Data at the top of this report provides descriptive statistics of the population density, population, and households by year (including projected growth) within 10, 30, and 50 miles from the address used. The comprehensive report also provides population data of those who were of Asian Indian, Bangladeshi, Cambodian, etc. ancestry and who resided within the three radiuses (Image 5b).

Image 5a

Image 5a

Image 5b

Image 5b


Learning about Competitors and Consumer Expenditures

Though not solely focused on race and ethnic populations, if you have connected with your local Small Business Development Center (SBDC), they offer Geographic Information Systems (GIS) reports. These reports are free of charge to prospective or existing small business owners who are receiving business-counseling services from their local SBDC Advisor.

Some of the reports include:

  • Competition maps—These maps show the location of individual competitors in relation to a small business location.
  • Competitor lists—These lists can include a competitor’s company name, location, number of employees at each location, whether the location is a competitor’s single location or branch, estimated annual sales volume, the competitor’s NAICS (North American Industry Classification System) and SIC (Standard Industrial Classification) codes and a latitude and longitude coordinate.
  • Consumer expenditure comparison reports—These reportshelp clients evaluate the relative demand for their chosen industry within their local market area, county, state, and the nation.
  • Drive time reports—The time it takes to travel to a local store or restaurant can be a significant factor in defining the target market for a small business. These highly detailed maps show the geographic boundaries of a small business’ target market customized to the amount of time considered acceptable to the small business’ clientele (Image 6).

Image 6. A sample Drive Time Map showing the market area that can reach a small business destination in Lakewood, CA within 10 minutes. (Contact your local SBDC for a customized map.)


Certainly, this post doesn’t discuss all that is needed to better understand consumers’ attitudes, behaviors, etc. towards wine based on their race and ethnicity. It does, however, provide some tools that are useful in gathering data and learning about the population of racial and ethnic groups you could serve in your community.

There are other components such as the consumer’s level of “acculturation,” which is the “cultural modification of an individual, group, or people by adapting or borrowing traits from another culture” (http://bit.ly/1xEH2NK). To demonstrate this point, we will use an example from Kathy’s family. Her sister-in-law was born in South Korea and came to the U.S. 15 years ago. As she has become more ingrained in U.S. society some of her habits and preferences have become more “mainstream” American. Not only can food choices, etc. change over time, but as someone becomes “fully acculturated,” their language preference can change from their native language to English (http://bit.ly/1IxluaM) which could impact how you choose to promote your wine.

Another component is to search the Internet for “wine and Asian culture,” “wine and Chinese culture,” etc. to learn about wine style preferences and how wine is consumed (e.g. wine and Coke or wine cocktails). Also, don’t forget to investigate what culturally significant holidays these consumers celebrate.

Regardless, conducting adequate research is crucial when developing a realistic marketing plan. By finding out as much as possible about viable consumer segments, you will have a much better chance of understanding their needs and wants and gaining them as customers.


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