Marketing Wine to Women
When I stumbled upon “Mom Juice” from KT Winery on Instagram, I was torn between hating on it or ordering all the bottles I could to support a brand that was marketing in such a relatable way. Mostly, I was curious. I asked my weekly wine club on Zoom what they thought of the label name. At first, they snickered (like I did), but when the chuckling died down, the sommelier in charge said, “If the wine is good, what do we care what the label says? Good wine is good wine.”
Some marketing is more subtle. Chateau St. Michele Rose, for instance, shifted their marketing from fancy photos of vineyards and wine bottles to focusing on engaging with consumers by talking about “how it fits in their lives,” the senior vice president of marketing for Chateau St. Michelle Martin Johnson told the New York Times back in 2012.3That was 10 years ago. Chateau St. Michele’s director of growth and strategy Britt Peterson told New York Times their pitch was for the “reluctant grown-ups,” or women from ages 25 to 38, “including, but not exclusively, mothers.”
Peterson told the Times, these women aren’t “just having fun with their friends, but they don’t want to lose the fun part of themselves…they’re grown up, but they don’t want to feel quote-unquote ‘grown up.’”
The brand chooses not to advertise in places that for women may already be escapist “guilty pleasures,” like People and Us Weekly, said Ms. Peterson. Rather, ads will appear “where she is spending the responsible part of her life” seeking knowledge about, say, parenting and meal planning. Think the online versions of Parents, Better Homes and Gardens and Every Day with Rachael Ray.
“It’s all about the nudge,” said Ms. Peterson, explaining that Chateau is positioning itself as the friend who prods harried women to indulge. “It’s O.K. to eat that whole tub of ice cream or to have that wine.”
Other brands take marketing to moms head-on. like the KT Winery’s “Mom Juice” label, and back in 2012, Mommy Juice, Mad Housewife and Mommy’s Time Out with some marketing exclusively in mom groups on Facebook.
Introducing “Mom Juice”
KT Winery launched its label “Mom Juice” in 2021 as what its Chief of Operations and Head of Strategy and mom of three Macie Mincey called an “accidental brand.”
KT Winery CEO Kristin Taylor, while acknowledging Mom Juice as a nod to the colloquialism of the term, also speaks about the label as an homage to her mother. Her mother introduced her to wine from a young age, returning from Navy deployments with wine from all over the world and displaying it for Taylor and others to see. It seems a young Kristin Taylor dreamed over those bottles to one day establish KT Winery.
They chose to develop Pinot Grigio made from grapes grown in Sonoma Carneros, California as an easy to drink wine — something that everyone can enjoy. Intending to launch under the KT Winery label, the feeling around the customer they were making this wine for was clear to CEO Kristin Taylor and Mincey. “Fun, sarcastic, let’s not take this too seriously,” Mincey said.
The grape enjoys an assumed mom wine status, up there with Chardonnay, particularly the style that gained huge popularity in the 1990s — think a fruit forward, fresh and clear wine. Sales surged in the US in the 1990s and according to a 2022 Wine Spectator report, sales increased by 40% in just one year between 1999 and 2000.4
While in development stages and tasting the Pinot Grigio with KT Winery’s Director of Winemaking Brian Kosi, Taylor and Mincey recall, “Our wine maker was just like, “It’s mom juice.”
Taylor and Mincey send warnings on their Pinot Grigio’s 14.4% ABV. Taylor mentioned that the alcohol level adds body and brings balance to the wine, but Mincey simply says, “Watch out, she’s sneaky.”
The red wine counterpart in the Mom Juice line is a Cabernet Sauvignon made with grapes from Lake County, California. “We didn’t want to go with a big Napa Cab, but Cabernet Sauvignon is the quintessential California Grape and we wanted there to be a red option,” Taylor said. “It has an oaky finish in perfect balance…nice spicy back palate, with red fruit and cherry…” Taylor trails off, lost in her description of the red wine-drinking mom’s go-to.
Each varietal included in the Mom Juice label seems to capture what Mincey calls a “Mom Moment” — a glass of chilled Pinot Grigio, playing in the backyard with the kids, and once they’re in bed, a glass of cab to wind down after a seemingly never-ending day.
Marketing that captures those moments for mom consumers has been in the headlines for over 10 years with companies going to great lengths to knock other mommy wine labels out of the ring and keep them from using “mommy juice” as a branding strategy.
Some have even sued. In a 2011 case, Clos Lachance Winery’s wine featured a typical mom juggling a million things (well, a house, teddy bear and computer, but the same) and the back label reads, “Tuck your kids into bed, sit down and have a glass of Mommy juice.” Anticipating a trademark violation suit by “Mommy’s Time Out,” Clos Lachance requested the court detangle the term “mommy juice” and declare it does not violate the trademark of “Mommy’s Time Out,” is that “mommy” is a generic term.
With such disputes settled over a decade ago, KT Winery’s Mom Juice has the room to open up the space for quality wine that goes beyond the Chardonnay, Pinot Grigio and other thin grocery store quick grabs. It delivers quality first products with personality and edge, with a mission to inspire culture shifts and change how people see women of color in the industry. That mission is represented in attention to detail and great care if the development of every aspect of KT Winery’s business.
“Mom Juice” may have been confirmed at the tasting, but it was solidified in the research. Consumer research studies, workshopping in Facebook groups, and other methods to test the brand brought the team to establish the label, in all its relatable glory. Pick up a bottle and read for yourself. Its design is elegant and minimalist, and the back label is anything but snobbery and wine industry double-speak — rather, words of comfort.
So snicker at it at first, but revel in the fact that even when the market is ripe and ready to make money, at its core motherhood, parenthood, is crazy hard and these wines understand.
The Other Side of Wine Marketing
There is a flip side. Some argue this marketing encourages consumption among mothers and given self-reported consumption during the pandemic, there is a swing in the opposite direction towards non-alcoholic wine and even, sobriety.
First and second-wave studies by RTI international show that the pandemic disproportionately affected women’s drinking habits where between April and November 2020 more women reported exceeding recommended drinking guidelines than men.
“Women are more likely to use alcohol to cope with stress, depression, and anxiety, and all these are a natural response to the COVID-19 pandemic,” said Carolina Barbosa, Ph.D., a health economist at RTI. “Alcohol consumption among women has been on the uptick for past two decades, and our study suggests the pandemic may only exacerbate that trend.”
Barbosa says, “Policymakers should be prepared to respond to the public health consequences of such a sudden, sustained increase in alcohol consumption.”
Instagram communities continue to grow around sobriety in motherhood and point out that hangovers don’t make motherhood easier. For another perspective on drinking wine, The Social Pour recently featured “Last Call But Not The Last Sip” by Danijela Kovac, founder of Teetotaler Wines, a non-alcoholic wine company.
Mom Juice creators Taylor and Mincey knew when they created the label, they’d be questioned about their role in what could be framed as encouraging moms to drink. Taylor says their brand only seeks to shift the way mothers and their wine are seen but believes the in the power of community to recognize when a fellow mom needs help. Taylor also loves those nonalcoholic wines that are on the market — “we want there to be something for everyone!”
Mom Juice as a label and the KT Winery mantra encourage a culture shift and adjusting perspectives. Launching this fall, Mincey will host the Only Moms podcast to talk through these Mom Moments and everything in between.