North Carolina’s wine and grape industry has experienced exponential growth in the past decade, employing more than 7,600 people, including many in Johnston County. Now the industry has a five-year roadmap for continued growth and economic impact.
Researchers at UNC-Greensboro have developed the first comprehensive strategic plan for the North Carolina wine and grape industry. Formulated with input from key stakeholders – including industry representatives, governmental agencies, business leaders and academics – the report identified key areas of direction, including:
▪ Ensuring the quality of North Carolina grapes and wines to drive sales and increase positive brand recognition and consumer confidence.
▪ Continued funding and research in enology, marketing, viticulture and wine/grape business.
▪ Enhanced marketing to inform and promote the impact and benefits of the industry;
▪ A focus on wine tourism, which has solid consumer interest.
▪ Advocating for a regulatory environment that equalizes peer state advantages and manages costs.
Johnston C0unty has three wineries and pick-your-own grape farm.
“The economic impact of the wine and grape industry in North Carolina is about $1.3 billion,” said N.C. Agriculture Commissioner Steve Troxler. “I look forward to the implementation of the objectives outlined in the strategic plan to better serve the state’s 400 commercial grape growers and 125 wineries.”
The report was sponsored by the N.C. Department of Agriculture and the N.C. Wine and Grape Growers Council sponsored the report.
The number of wineries in the state has more than quadrupled over the last decade, supporting more than 7,600 North Carolina jobs and revitalizing some rural areas. “It was obvious that people who had tobacco farms were starting to turn into other types of agricultural crops,” said Bonnie Canziani, who co-developed the report with Erick Byrd. “Grape production was one that was tickling people’s fancy.”
Canziani and Byrd are both associate professors of sustainable tourism and hospitality at UNC-Greensboro.
A key strength is the state’s diversity in grape and wine products. Fertile North Carolina soil makes it possible to grow both native muscadine grapes and European-style vinifera grapes. In addition, wine tourism offers a unique activity to the state’s existing tourism mix and creates additional business for local hotels, restaurants and tour companies.
“The strategic plan allows industry leaders to say, ‘What do we know about where we are, what do the majority of people in the state say are the core concerns, and what are the ways we may develop ourselves in the future?’” Canziani said.
Industry leaders have already begun working on aspects of the strategic plan, she added, allocating funding to meet some of the strategic imperatives. Certain initiatives, such as the push to enhance the state’s reputation as a producer of high-quality wines and grapes and increase market share, were given high priority. Other goals will be put on hold pending the outcomes of more immediate objectives.