Meijer is putting Michigan Wine Month front and center with displays during May that highlight wines made throughout the state.
“Michigan Wine Month is being supported with a pallet display,” says Henry Elkhoury, key account manager for Michigan’s largest alcoholic beverage wholesaler, Great Lakes Wine & Spirits. “Many (Michigan Meijer) stores are supporting the local wineries by putting up an approved pallet display on the floor with a pallet wrap (that says) ‘Made in Michigan.’”
Meijer was the first major retailer in Michigan to dedicate space in its stores to support local Michigan wineries, starting in the 1980s, says Meijer wine buyer Lisa Lyon.
“One of our company’s key initiatives is to support local farmers and businesses,” Lyon says. “This initiative ensures that our Meijer customers get the freshest fruit, produce, meat and dairy products — while supporting the communities in which they live.
“We continue to grow the space we dedicate to Michigan-made wines at Meijer. And our customers repeatedly tell us that they want even more.”
Elkhoury says that early on, Michigan wines in Meijer stores were displayed in 3-to-4-foot sections.
“Now it’s a minimum of 8-feet sections,” he says. “They’ve more than doubled the shelf space. Meijer continues to be the No. 1 retailer for Michigan wine in Michigan with the largest wine selection among other retailers.”
Filling the shelves of Meijer’s 117 Michigan stores are at least 80 different Michigan wines, which Elkhoury says represent the growing diversity in production. In the early days, he says, Michigan was known for sweet wines and Rieslings. Today, consumers seek Michigan-made Chardonnay, Pinot Grigio and sparkling wines, among others.
“With the quality of wines coming out of Michigan wine regions, we are now selling top-quality white varietal wines, Pinot Grigio, rosé and Chardonnay, in addition to Riesling,” he says, noting that “the quality of the wine, the exposure and a lot of good Rieslings getting top scores and awards” in competition with heavy hitters such as those from Germany and Washington state help boost sales.
And with more than 160 wineries and dozens of tasting rooms across the state, demand continues to grow.
“This state is full of popular tourist destinations, so many persons from out-of-state first try Michigan wines while vacationing here, and then they want to be able to drink it when they return home,” Lyon says. “So we strive to have as wide of a selection from the state as possible, regardless of the state.
“We currently have multiple lines of Michigan-made wines offered in the six states where we have stores (Michigan, Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, Wisconsin and Kentucky).”
Meanwhile, in Michigan Meijer stores, state-made wines are the No. 2 place of origin (in sales) behind California. Michigan wines also outsell those from Italy and Australia.
“However, because of the sheer amount of local wineries and amount of stores we have, Michigan wine sales are growing at a faster pace than California varietals for the state,” Lyon says. “One reason could be that most customers love the fruit-based wines featuring locally grown fruits like blueberries and cherries.
“Additionally, Michigan wineries are starting to offer their vintages in different formats, such as offering favorite flavors in aluminum cans that are perfect for camping, boating and outdoor entertaining.”