Thursday, March 28, 2019

I Can't Take the Lunacy!


This might be the shortest blog I've ever penned, but I've got to get this off my chest.

In the 2019 SVB State of the Industry Report I pointed out some changes we as a wine industry are facing, including the lack of engagement by our younger consumers which I attribute in part to the cumulative negative health messaging coming from neo-prohibitionists.

       What To Believe?


One of the core values influencing our missing consumers of the youthful persuasion is their search for healthiness and truthiness. OK that was two core values - but anyway, when it comes to alcohol consumption, a January 2019 study done by Nielsen and Harris Poll concluded that two-thirds of young consumers were serious about cutting their current consumption of alcohol - largely for health reasons. As if they weren't already eschewing wine, now they all want to drink even less?

      Lost Our Way


We as an industry have lost our way in our daily quest to sell personalized experiences and wine to the individual. We stopped marketing to the larger consumer market about the positive health aspects of wine, and stopped attacking the junk science out there. We stopped promoting the decades of science that proves there are health benefits of consuming wine.

Our consumer is reading the press today and without a rebuttal, they no longer believe moderate consumption is part of a healthy diet and lifestyle (.pdf) A sampling of the articles:


       I Can't Take the Lunacy


Then today I saw this one: How Many Cigarettes are there in a Bottle of Wine? Are you kidding me? I know the answer is zero, so what gives?

The whole point of this article is to drive awareness of the possible risks of cancer from wine consumption. The comment is made within that "the health risks associated with consuming alcohol are less-well understood (compared to cigarettes), and (wine drinking) is generally perceived by the general public as being comparatively less harmful than smoking." 

Well isn't consuming wine better for you than smoking cigarettes?

Not according to the above referenced article that concludes, "One bottle of wine per week is associated with an increased absolute lifetime cancer risk for non-smokers of 1.0% (men) and 1.4% (women). The overall absolute increase in cancer risk for one bottle of wine per week equals that of five (men) or ten cigarettes per week (women)." That's supported from the following "study": 


      In the Footnotes


As any good study does, this one puts in caveats in the footnotes which are interesting:
"We must first be absolutely clear that this study is not saying that drinking alcohol in moderation is in any way equivalent to smoking. Smoking kills up to two thirds of its users, and cancer is just one of the many serious health consequences. This study purely addresses cancer risk in isolation."

So on the one hand, "drinking one bottle per week EQUALS (smoking) 10 cigarettes for women," but on the other hand, the study is not EQUATING moderate wine consumption as "EQUIVALENT to smoking." 

Bottom line, it's not about good science. The authors are up front about that. "Our estimation of a cigarette equivalent for alcohol provides a useful measure for communicating possible cancer risks that exploits successful historical messaging on smoking. It is well established that heavy drinking is linked to cancer of the mouth, throat, voice box, gullet, bowel, liver and breast." 

Never mind that heavy drinking is being targeted by using the moderate consumption of wine to come to illogical conclusions about the negative health impact from heavy consumption. The conclusions just don't line up. 

Where is the truthiness? If there was the transparency in this study our young consumers seek, the writers would say the purpose of the study is to create disinformation and take advantage of the fear people have about smoking, and link that fear with wine to drive a reduction in even moderate wine consumption patterns of consumers. It doesn't matter that moderate consumption has been proven healthy through decades of research. The ends justify the means apparently?

      So What's It Going to Be Wine Industry?


After the release of the SVB Annual Wine Report in January, everyone became aware that absolute wine volume has turned negative in off premise according to Nielsen on a rolling 12 month basis. The studies in evidence here and this kind of writing is partially creating the decline.

We are in a fight for the young consumer who believes BULLSHIT science like this, and the one-sided articles that get printed from this kind of crap. (OK... I'm sorry for saying BULLSHIT!!! )

What are we going to do as an industry to counteract this constant barrage of misinformation?

OK. Maybe I had more to say than I thought. Your turn.

What's Your Opinion?


What can be done to reshape and balance this narrative? Or maybe you think I'm over-blowing the situation and I'd love to hear those comments too.

Please join this site in the top right-hand side of the page, and offer your thoughts below. I respond to everyone.

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27 comments:

  1. I ignored the cigarette article when it first appeared in the daily news feed. Now I went to the website of the BMC journal to see what's up. I won't judge them overall. But reading the "Comparison" article was painful. How many angels CAN fit on the head of a pin, assuming that an angel has a mass of X to the minus 1000 power, which is the maximum vector of an ion in a vacuum, which is the most useful scientific description of a ethereal moment of inspiration. In other words, junk masquerading as junk. Sooner or later, good science will push out bad science, and best estimate is around the year 2525, according to Zager and Evans.

    (Not that I want to really stir the pot, but we were also told for 2 years that President Donald Trump was elected by Putin. Somehow, though, the Special Prosecutor couldn't find a single shred of evidence connecting any American to all the crap run by Russians under the nose of the Obama administration. truth is a rare commodity in some locales these days.)

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    1. The promotion of science creates a narrative that becomes truth. Without "the other side" getting presented and promoted, truth will form from junk science.

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  2. This effort pales into insignificance when compared to the anthropogenic global warming scam. We are suckered left right and center.

    Carbon dioxide is well mixed. Its effects should manifest in every month of the year. However, in the month of January, the surface warming effect has been absent for three decades over the entire southern hemisphere, considered as a unit.

    In science and logic, a single exception invalidates a hypothesis.

    Here is the data for the southern hemisphere. In January, the average temperature by the decade was:
    1979-88 was 17.71°C,
    1989-98 was 17.42°C,
    1999-2008 was 17.5°C
    2009-18 was 17.69°C

    Source of data: https://www.esrl.noaa.gov/psd/cgi-bin/data/timeseries/timeseries.pl?ntype=1&var=Air+Temperature&level=1000&lat1=0&lat2=-90&lon1=0&lon2=360&iseas=0&mon1=0&mon2=11&iarea=1&typeout=1&Submit=Create+Timeseries

    This source overcomes the problem of the paucity of data for the surface, lack of continuity, and the effect of urbanization on land, especially important given the extent of the ocean in the southern hemisphere. It uses satellite data, arguably, the best available and plumbs the entire depth of the atmosphere for a multitude of variables, a distinct advantage when it comes to cross referencing and interpolation.

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    1. I'll leave the comment for now, but please stay on point. The debate for today on this blog isn't about global warming. Today we are discussing a negative impact on wine consumption and what we should do to combat the cumulative negative impact from the onslaught.

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    2. Rob, as a wine producer, whatever I say is going to be seen as coming from a person with a vested interest. In my view, a lot of what masquerades as 'science' is nonsense. We respect the process of science as the source of improvement for mankind. But the practitioners of 'science'are tainted with the same human frailties as the rest of us. Individuals are not immune from taking passionate positions that have more to do with visceral instinct than careful observation, curious interest and the use of logic. Correlation does not imply causation.

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    3. Correlation doesn't imply causation, but science has a hard time taking control groups and filling them with possible injurious substances, so alcohol will always have to lean on correlation which is subject to WIDE abuses.

      This study and article is one example of an abuse. I noted elsewhere that I'd reported this to a group that works on cleaning up junk science and getting retractions. But even if this is retracted, the message is out there. The other side of this debate is talking and making a point and the science while garbage, will still be impactful even if retracted.

      While the wine business doesn't have to take the fight to this extreme and masquerade, we need to start saying something.

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    4. The availability of alcohol has been regulated in many societies. notably with licensing arrangements and even outright prohibition. In my view, a civilized society is one that doesn't set out to license producers, wholesalers, importers, retailers and the places where people gather to eat and drink while enjoying each other’s company. In my experience one doesn't see this sort of nonsense in Asia. And, in my view, people are less inclined to abuse it in those circumstances.
      Everyone wants to be healthy, happy and wise. An educated and literate society takes heed of what the medical and research fraternity has to say about the risks of consuming foods, beverages and drugs, driving a car, enlisting in the army and so on. The best defense against those who have unbalanced agendas is to allow teachers in schools to point out, according to their own personal understanding of the issues, where they see competing viewpoints. This emphasizes that each one of us has personal responsibility for the choices we make in life. This is the best defense against charlatans, incompetents and frauds. We have to have uppermost in our minds the question.…. What’s the agenda behind this point of view?
      I was fortunate to be educated at a time when the emphasis was on comprehension and discussion rather than indoctrination.

      Rob, thanks for the links and for bringing the issue to the attention of a wider audience.

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    5. Occasionally, but all too infrequently there is a journalist who makes an important contribution. https://notalotofpeopleknowthat.wordpress.com/2019/03/31/bookers-farewell/

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  3. No one in the scientific community is taking this seriously, but as you point out young consumers certainly are! The Euro-governments have tipped toward an agenda of tea-toddling, and have no problem pushing their agenda with junk science. Rebuttal from our industry can look like it too has an agenda, one construed as pushing alcohol on innocent sober-seeking youngsters. The more important message should be that accurate science and truthfulness should be respected when foisting any "brand new study" or "special-interest editorial" put out by groups with agendas. We allow this crap to be disseminated at our own peril.

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    1. Scientists might not take this seriously, but yes - people hear sound bites and the cumulative negative messaging is hurting the industry unfairly.

      There's no question there is a risk to rebuttal, but I'd suggest there is an equal risk to saying nothing. PR firms are adept at positioning research and debate allowing others to take a position that might sound biased coming from someone in the wine business.

      In my thinking, the current narrative both in Europe, the messaging from the World Health Organization, and what's coming out of our own country today - that all has to have balance applied and doing nothing is the wrong approach.

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  4. Then why are the millennials drinking an insane amount of craft beer? If they rhink alcohol is so bad for them why are so many craft beer pubs and breweries slammed to the brim? Millenials just really dont care about wine. They prefer cocktails, beer and marijuana. Wine is seen as old and stuck up and not inviting overall. Thats the problem and i work in the wine business.

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    1. Anti - there is a second issue that has to be discussed and that's the way we market wine to young consumers. You are spot on and the past 3 months, that one point has been the subject of my speaking deck. I hope to produce a blog post or two on the subject soon.

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    2. Id be very interested to listen to your blog

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  5. Great response, Rob McMillan, to another article that clearly has a narrative and doesn’t expect someone else to challenge or at least respond! Keep it up as it is refreshing‼️

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    1. Thanks Unk 10:15. At the advice of a colleague, I've also pushed this research forward to a group that focuses on research that gives science a bad name. Hopefully it will result in a retraction. Sadly, you can't unring a bell and the digital existence will remain no matter what is done from here.

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  6. I agree that the cigarette and wine cancer claim is basically a numbers comparison that is referring to probabilities that, even if accurate, probably didn't merit the claim. As soon as I saw 1.0 and 1.4 percent, I laughed and quit reading. Looking across all studies, I think the reasonable conclusion is that the evidence is mixed. Some studies are better than others, and few studies on consumptive behavior can really get at what is going on. They make a lot of assumptions and leave out a lot of variables and basically assume they don't matter or future studies will address those. There are also recent studies that suggests people's bodies are much more idiosyncratic in terms of response to types of food than was previously assumed (see the article by Topol, The A.I. Diet, NY Times, March 2, 2019 for a quick overview of these studies and evidence). Again, this is one small set of studies using a different approach, set of assumptions, and some different technology. I agree the wine industry should monitor and try to balance some of the very weak claims that have been and are being produced. But one must also be skeptical of claims that science has "proven" anything. As a researcher, I tell my students never to use that term. There may be substantial, even overwhelming evidence that increases our confidence substantially in the validity of one's claim, but science isn't about proof, but the weight of evidence and procedures of collecting and interpreting that evidence. So to claim that science "proves" that wine is good for us is an overstatement. Note that this doesn't mean that one study that does not support a hypothesis negates the hypothesis. That is also not how science really works, and ignores the shortcomings of much if not most all scientific research as well as the process of making claims about evidence. It's about the preponderance of evidence. On the preference for craft beer, I also teach young people and they live in my neighborhood. Wine seems expensive to them. They drink cheap beer, wine coolers, and spirits in their McDonald's sodas. Craft beer is a step up for them when they start making a little better money or are wanting to begin developing some cultural capital. My evidence is anecdotal--many conversations and the refuse that appears in my and my neighbors' yards. Not a great sample, but maybe the industry should be exploring the reasons and get a better understanding. Breweries have quickly outnumbered wineries in many if not most states. But it was wineries in many of those states that made the craft beer industries possible. There are some interesting hypotheses about why this may be: urban and near populations centers (craft beer) versus rural (craft wine). And for beer and wine, both craft and more industrially produced and nationally or globally distributed, gender differences in practices and preferences play some role and those foundations are not well understood, but favor men's opportunities and choices.

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    1. Thanks for the thoughts JimP. Agree that science is about the weight of evidence. As a researcher, I totally understand there is a difference between analysis and 'proof.' I try and offer support for my conclusions, but recognize I have both bias and can be wrong ( ... well, maybe just biased.)

      The issue isn't how science views this. The issue is around the politics and narrative. Even if rational people ignore this kind of thing, in a world that communicated in 124 characters at a time, these sound bites have real impact.

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  7. Actually, a worse cancer risk is hereditary- quoting a 10/12/2017 study "The Genetics of Cancer", National Cancer Institute: "Hereditary Cancer Syndromes. Inherited genetic mutations play a major role in about 5 to 10 percent of all cancers. Researchers have associated mutations in specific genes with more than 50 hereditary cancer syndromes, which are disorders that may predispose individuals to developing certain cancers." So it's apparently riskier to have babies than to drink wine. Hmmmm. Wonder if people are going to cut that out.

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    1. Thanks for the comment Paul. There are so many things wrong with this study, I wouldn't know where to start. The study that they are using for the basis of the study are almost as flawed - so its flawed underlying data + flawed approach = bullshit science. Oh damn. Sorry for saying bullshit again.

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  8. It is luncacy to project a young adult can espouse a cogent description of their future life patterns and then have an industry project on that a lifelong decline in purported (or desired - Ha!) pattern. At 21-24 Dud you have a clue how you would engage alc when you arrived at a latter, presumably more comfortable, latter stage of life. I sure missed that one on my way through early adulthood, drinking tequila sunrises to the sun came up and today not having a single interest in such a spirit drink and moving to wine. Maybe this is inside out thinking but com'on man young adults change patterns as they mature, sorry we want them to just take over the wine category the minute they reach LDA to sustain our NOI.

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    1. Roger - your view is rational and can be summed up by saying young adults change consumption patterns over time. I would only say that there is no question negative health messaging is leading to lower alcohol consumption across all young consumers. We can standby and HOPE that the young consumer evolves the same way we moved from tequila sunrises at the Office Bar in Birminghamton NY in 1976 over to wine when we got older, but my philosophy is that hope is not a strategy. Since it's clear the marketing message of negative health messaging is getting through, my believe is we shouldn't wait and hope. I'd rather market.

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  9. If you look at it the other way it makes it even more crazy, I wonder why the cigarette companies don't run with this one. lol

    Smoking less than a half a pack of cigarettes per week is healthier than a bottle of wine! ��

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    1. Thanks Anon 11:03 - Interestingly the research is under peer review still, and one of the comments from one peer was they needed to be careful. Though the intent was to suggest wine was dangerous and creates cancer like smoking, it could boomerang and a reader could conclude maybe smoking isn't as bad for you as everyone thought.

      Crazy that the comment is even in a peer review statement because you have a peer trying to convince the author that the goal of creating a messaging point against wine, could provide a messaging point for smoking. A peer should be critical about methodologies instead of pointing out they need to consider changing their conclusions. And in fact the authors did add additional language that I cited above in the footnotes.

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  10. I think the majority of the media doesn't understand the way science works. The media sees a study that has been done, then Wammo! it's news! One study doesn't mean crap. People who don't understand that one or two peer reviewed papers doesn't mean that a new law is written.

    For every study that says alcohol is bad there is probably another one that says its good for you. People need to re-learn how to think critically and ask questions. Who funded that study? Often there is an agenda.

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    1. There is a saying "Show me the conclusions and I'll tell you who funded the study."

      It's not about the the truth in this game. It's about creating a narrative that does what Prohibition couldn't accomplish, the elimination of alcohol consumption. And while that's never going to happen in total, the anti-alcohol movement is quite happy with the gains and that is encouraging more brazen statements and papers like this one.

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  11. How about getting behind the people that have been hammering at this for the last 10 years. #WineinModeration.

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  12. Adding this article to the mix. Its from a UK writer who came to the same conclusion but has done a much more thorough job of presenting the data.

    https://health.spectator.co.uk/the-campaign-to-make-alcohol-the-new-tobacco/

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