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UK wine buyers more cautious to try new ideas than in Europe says Origin's Bernard Fontannaz

Published:  27 June, 2014

It is easier to convince retail buyers in Europe to take on new wine ideas and designs than it is in the UK, according to Bernard Fontannaz, founder of Origin Wines.

Fontannaz and his team have spent the last few years trying to find new product ideas that work on the edges of the traditional wine market in a bid to attract new drinkers who are more likely to buying cocktails, flavoured cider and craft beers.

But to do so will also require a change of thinking of major wine buyers in the UK, stressed Fontannaz.

"There is still a trend for people to ask 'what if it doesn't work' rather than say 'let's go for it'. We need to change this attitude rather than the reasons to say no."

He added: "We have to think outside the box if we are going to attract new customers."

But in Europe the approach is much more pro-active, said Fontannaz. "It is easier to convince the trade there than it is in the UK," he said. "They are more open minded and more interested in the possible upside rather than any minimal risk."

It has, for example, already gained listings in 11 US states for its Stormhoek Wine 4 Sharing bottle, which peels back to reveal four separate PET glasses of wine, which could be for one varietal or feature four different wine styles. Ideal for the convenience sector and for picnics and drinking outside. But is still working on distribution in the UK. 

It is, though, finding routes to market in the UK for some of its new ideas.

It is working with Tesco with its Stormhoek brand that has a pen attached and an empty love heart shaped label that allows customers to write message on.

"Personalisation is a big trend for consumers so we are looking at more ideas like this," said Fontannaz.

Origin LifeOrigin LifeOrigin's Life! brand will see different coloured bottles released during the year to reflect the changing mood of the consumer in different seasons of the year

Origin's Life! brand will see different coloured bottles released during the year to reflect the changing mood of the consumer in different seasons of the year

One of which is a brand, Life, that changes the bottle colour for different seasons of the year to reflect the changing mood of consumers buying it. "As a consumer your mentality changes through the year, so we will change the label to reflect that," explained Fontannaz.

It was also looking at a "Touch It" style brand that would again change the label design at different times of the year to have, for example, a sandy texture during the summer, which would change to a snowy label in the winter.

Or a label that peels back and allows customers to put in a personal picture instead, which hopefully they might then share on social media and reach out to a new audience, explained Fontannaz.

He said there was much the wine world could learn from major spirits brands and said the initiative Absolut had done last year to create millions of individually designed labels was simply "amazing".

He told that  Origin Wine continues to grow its market share in the UK with a 30% increase in sales in the last year.

He said its growth is down to offering different options and solutions for key areas of the trade. Be it volume, price driven brands for the multiples, through to more innovative, premium and its core Fairtrade wine business from South Africa and Chile.

Fontannaz said competition within its sector of the market was fiercer than ever which made its growth in the last 12 months even more pleasing.

"There are less players in the market now who can offer a full service, but we still need to be innovative and creative and look at the next opportunities," said Fontannaz.

"Yes, some work, some don't but we have to be looking for the next innovation that is going to work on shelf," he explained.

A wine label you can personalise yourself from Origin Wine