Could a beer company successfully launch a wine under its own brand? A Carlsberg Cabernet perhaps? Or an Adnams or Anchor Steam Albariño? Until quite recently, I’d have thought the question preposterous; now I’m far less sure. After all, it wasn’t so very long ago that I’d have dismissed the notion of a wine company launching a vodka or a brewery selling a cider.
But Cupcake, last year’s fastest growing wine brand in the US has indeed released an award-winning range of vodkas and AB InBev’s Stella Artois Cidre has just recorded £36m in UK supermarket sales during its first year on sale. When Cidre was first launched, many industry experts dismissed its chances, especially given the strength of Magners its main competitor. But just under half of the Cidre sales were incremental to the cider and beer categories. The value of Magners sales actually grew by 21% by value across the same period.
But, I hear you say, beer and cider are quite different to wine. Well, up to a point, would be my response. When people drink best-selling sweet Californian “white” rosé, are they really drinking “wine” as traditionalists understand the term? I ask because, while researching consumer attitudes to a 5.5% pink South African wine with added flavours, few recognised that it was not one of those Californians.
Booming sales of low-alcohol flavoured wines like First Cape’s Cafe Collection from the wine aisles of UK supermarkets suggest that in Britain at least, there’s plenty of flexibility in the way that consumers view inexpensive “wine”.
Another example of the way that lines are being blurred comes with VINNI, a new launch by McGuigan (disclosure: a company for which I have provided consultancy and research). Unlike Cafe Collection, VINNI is technically and legally a wine – a 5.5% Moscato – but it comes in a pint-sized (568ml) bottle and has a label that describes it as “wine based refreshment”. Tesco, the UK’s – and the world’s – biggest wine retailer evidently believes in VINNI, having just decided to list it in all of its stores.
It’s rose, but it’s not rose wine
Now please don’t misunderstand me. I’m not saying that drinks like these are going to take over the wine market, but I’ll lay a bet that – at the high-volume, lower end of the price spectrum – they will be increasingly important. And they deserve at least as much attention as the “Natural” wines that have commanded so much attention.
Since posting this I’ve discovered that Adrian Atkinson of Pernod Ricard asked this very question at a recent conference. Credit to him for raising it first!