UTIA Launches Study to Improve Market Access for Tennessee Wineries

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Research Aims to Increase Effectiveness of Social Media Advertising

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. — Researchers at the University of Tennessee Institute of Agriculture have received a three-year grant from USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service to evaluate the feasibility of improving market access for Tennessee wineries through increased effectiveness of social media advertising. Using economic research and eye-tracking technology to identify marketing opportunities, the project aims to assist wineries in successfully marketing their products and venues.

With 77 wineries scattered across the state in 2023, Tennessee wine sales are on the rise, with the industry employing 790 workers directly and continuing to grow at a faster rate than the state economy in general. Approximately 60% of these wineries are located in nonmetro or rural counties. These rural wineries may face unique marketing challenges compared with their metro winery counterparts and rely more on tourism-based visit sales. As such, staying connected with potential customers via social media can be a means to attract visitors, inform them about products and events, and encourage additional sales either through on-site visits or e-commerce sales.

“Our Department of Agricultural and Resource Economics recently established the REM (Research, Extension, Marketing) Lab, which uses eye tracking to assess the effectiveness of promotions and products at gaining customers’ attention,” says lead researcher Karen DeLong. “We look forward to using this technology to help identify effective marketing strategies for our state’s wineries.”

The project is designed to research how Tennessee wineries can optimize social media communications with potential customers and how to use subsequent market information to develop a targeted marketing base. Study findings can be extrapolated for wineries throughout the United States, particularly those in emerging wine production areas.

Increased local wine sales could also benefit local grape producers and possibly bolster rural economies from increased visits to rural wineries, wine festivals, and related tourism events that result in spillover spending at other rural businesses, such as the hospitality industry.

Comprising the research team are Karen DeLong, David Hughes, Alicia Rihn and Ricky Chen from UT’s Department of Agricultural and Resource Economics.

Project partners include the Appalachian Region Wine Producers Association, Mountain Valley Winery and the Tennessee Farm Winegrowers Alliance.

The University of Tennessee Institute of Agriculture is comprised of the Herbert College of Agriculture, UT College of Veterinary Medicine, UT AgResearch and UT Extension. Through its land-grant mission of teaching, research and outreach, the Institute touches lives and provides Real. Life. Solutions. to Tennesseans and beyond. utia.tennessee.edu.

Media Contact

Tina M. Johnson

Agricultural and Resource Economics


Karen DeLong, associate professor, Agricultural and Resource Economics