English wine, brand battle, Californian industry

What a statement

The extremely jingoistic English newspaper The Express ran an article on August 1 with the heading, “English wine is now the fourth best in the world say British drinkers”.

What a statement. According to the blurb, “British wine is now rated as better quality than Spanish, South African and New Zealand tipples”.

From the Australian industry point of view, the good news was that English wine still trails behind France, Australia and Italy.

The Express story originates from a report in the trade magazine The Grocer, based on a poll of 2000 consumers. Other points raised in the poll:

  • More than half of Brits have never even tried an English wine and many have no intention of doing so.
  • Consumers in the 25-44-year-old bracket are most receptive to English wine.
  • Older consumers are less likely to switch from their traditional favourites.
  • Younger consumers find the UK versions too expensive.
  • French wine is considered the best in the world by 36 per cent.
  • Italy comes second with 15 per cent.
  • Australian wine comes third with 13 per cent.
  • English wine picked up 11 per cent, with a big divide in age acceptance: 19 per cent among those aged 25-34, but dropping to 15 per cent in the 35-44 age group.
  • Spanish wine was preferred by 7 per cent.
  • South African by 6 per cent.
  • New Zealand by 5 per cent.

Price and availability are the big barriers to buying English wine. Interestingly, 13 per cent said they didn’t know English wine existed. This takes us back to the early 1980s, when a good proportion of consumers didn’t know Australia produced wine

Brand battle

The two largest wine companies in Australia are Treasury Wine Estates (TWE) and Accolade Wines. Naturally, they are competitors, not only domestically but in overseas markets.

In the UK, Accolade, via its Hardys brand, holds the number one spot, while TWE has second place with the Californian sourced Blossom Hill brand. The latest figures from IRI show the top 10 wine brands in the UK, by value, for the year to July 2016.

Australian brands: Hardys, McGuigan, Jacob’s Creek and Yellowtail

US brands: Blossom Hill, Echo Falls, Barefoot and Gallo

Chilean brands: Casillero del Diablo and Isla Negra

  Brand To July 2015 To July 2016 % Change Average price (75cl)
1 Hardys £325.8m £315.7m -3.08 £5.18
2 Blossom Hill £243.2m £207.9m -14.52 £4.93
3 Echo Falls £188.5m £194.1m +2.95 £4.97
4 Casillero del Diablo £89.7m £120.2m +33.97 £6.13
5 McGuigan £109.3m £119.9 +9.64 £5.15
6 Barefoot £78m £107.3m +37.45 £5.79
7 Gallo £113.5 £98.6 -13.15 £5.48
8 Isla Negra £92.8m £90.8 -2.18 £5.04
9 Jacob’s Creek £93.3m £88m -5.71 £6.01
10 Yellowtail £64.5m £85.8m +33.04 £5.96

Although Hardys has dipped by a little over 3 per cent, it’s still more than £100 million ahead of the rest in sales. In percentage increase terms the stars are Barefoot, Casillero del Diablo and Yellowtail. The biggest losers are Blossom Hill and Gallo. One also has to consider the South African brand Kumala, which is out of the top 10.

The average price for the 10 is £5.46 ($9.23). It’s worth noting that the two big US brands occupy the bottom two places in the price chart.  TWE acquired Blossom Hill from Diageo in October last year. It will be interesting to see if TWE can back up the rhetoric of up-marketing its portfolio with such a downmarket brand.

Casillero del Diablo £6.13
Jacob’s Creek £6.01
Yellowtail £5.96
Barefoot £5.79
Gallo £5.48
Average price £5.46
Hardys £5.18
McGuigan £5.15
Isla Negra £5.04
Echo Falls £4.97
Blossom Hill £4.93

It’s disappointing to see Hardys and McGuigan below the average price, but that’s counteracted by Jacob’s Creek and Yellowtail occupying second and third place.

California shining

The California wine industry is shining. A report by John Dunham and Associates of New York released last week announced, “The 2015 Annual Economic Impact Grows to US$57.6 Billion [$75.2 billion] in California, $114.1 Billion in US”.

The report was commissioned by the Wine Institute and the California Association of Winegrape Growers. It says:

“California wineries and vineyards also directly and indirectly generate 325,000 jobs in California and 786,000 jobs across the nation.”

One assumes this does not include the vast amount of Hispanics unofficially employed in the Californian wine industry. Some estimates put the Hispanic workforce as high as 70 per cent. Where would the industry be without this cheap labour?

The growth over the past seven years is put at 17 per cent for the state and 19 per cent nationally. Other reported stats include:

  • Tourism: Wine country attracted nearly 24 million tourist visits in 2015.
  • Employment: 786,000 full-time equivalent jobs: 325,000 jobs in California, 461,000 jobs in other states.
  • Wages: US$34.9 billion annually.
  • Taxes: US$15.2 billion total: US$8.9 billion in federal taxes, US$6.3 billion in state and local taxes.
  • Charitable contributions: US$249 million annually.

In the box

There’s been a lot of news in the recent past about the invention of the wine cask. Didn’t Australia do well! But it went wrong. It wasn’t the technology but the reputation that led cask downmarket. The Australian wine industry does its hardest to distance itself from cask, at least from a PR perspective. There is still truckloads going out to the market.

It’s fascinating to read that in other countries companies are tarting up the cask and using PR to promote it and the wine it contains.

Manchester-based UK wine importer and distributer Boutinot has launched a 2.25-litre box in the shape of a VW campervan. Boutinot says it’s to capitalise on the growing camping fad in the UK, which is somewhat ironic, as Australians trolling around Europe often use VW campervans.

Sadly, the Boutinot people have chosen to fill the campervan with a South African chenin blanc, and not an Australian wine. Bag-in-box sales are growing in the UK, says Nielsen. They were up 15 per cent in the year to April, and worth £153 million ($260 million).

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