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New Zealand - pushing the premium

Published:  18 January, 2017

Premiumisation is the trend that is sweeping the world globally, with not just beers, wines and spirits, but also FMCGs like milk and beauty products taking the international market by storm according to Nielsen. 

Premiumisation is the trend that is sweeping the world globally, not just with beers, wines and spirits, but also FMCGs like milk and other dairy products taking international markets by storm, according to data from Nielsen.

But how to encourage consumers to trade up when the quality stakes and value for money keep them in a mid-range comfort zone?

This is the challenge faced by New Zealand, which boasted one of the highest rates of wine growth - a title shred with Argentina - in the UK in 2016 while maintaining a higher than average bottle price.

"Sauvignon blanc for example offers great value for money, but what we have to do now is communicate that next step up where there's more concentration and weight," Yealands winemaker Jeff Fyfe explained.

"The entry level wines can be drunk with food, but the next level is more about food pairing. The difficulty is that the difference in quality is narrower than somewhere like France, where they make a lot of great wine but also some pretty terrible cheap wines too."

Philip Gregan CEO of New Zealand Wine, which organised the country's annual trade tasting in London on Monday (January 16), agreed that while lower production than its European counterparts drives up quality, communicating a hierarchy of quality is one of the challenges which 2017 will seek to address.

"We're not in a climate where we can produce cheap wine at low quality," Gregan said.

"We've got to present value for money with consumers. Regionality helps to emphasise this [hierarchy in quality] and we've already seen that consumers are prepared to pay for individual stories.

"But it's not something we can force. Winemakers need time to evolve and to innovate."

Almost one year ago to the day, an international celebration of Sauvignon blanc was held in Marlborough by New Zealand Wines to emphasise these regional differences and the stories of individual wineries.

While Sauvignon blanc is produced in nearly every winemaking region in New Zealand, the most prominent regions for the grape and the most popular with British consumers is Marlborough and Hawke's Bay.

Marlborough is the undisputed king when it comes to Sauvignon blanc production.

Of the 20,497ha of Sauvignon blanc producing vines in New Zealand, 18,234ha of them are located in Marlborough.

"Marlborough's Sauvignon is what most people are used to. Hawke's Bay is a warmer region, the there tends to be more fuller, tropical fruit on the palette.

"And the wines within the sub regions within Marlborough are very different. There is an understanding in the UK on-trade of the differences that exist within the styles with regionality but also winemaking differences.

"There are great stories to be told, but we need to gather that momentum."