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Innovation essential if wine to curb falling consumer base

Published:  23 May, 2018

The last major innovation in the wine category was the screwcap – first introduced a couple of decades ago - and the category is going to have to seriously pick up the pace if it is to stay relevant to today’s consumer.

This was a central assertion at Harpers seminar on New Product Development and Innovation at London Wine Fair, where a cross-trade panel came together to explore the latest developments and the economic imperative of embracing innovation.

It was agreed that wine has lagged behind rival drinks categories of spirits and craft beers, partially because of it being “rooted in tradition”, along with the long and often costly lead time where production is concerned to bring a new product to market.

However, the panel also noted that where innovation is being introduced to the category, there are clear, demonstrable results.

Health and evolving consumer shopping occasion were cited by Kingsland’s Neil Anderson as major defining factors in the emerging landscape for wine, and one’s that the trade would do well to not just acknowledge, but fast act upon.

“81% of all (wine) consumption is by 45 year olds and above, which has grown from 75% previously, and this continues to grow,” said Anderson, adding that Kingsland’s most recent WinePro research revealed that 22% of consumers said they were looking to moderate their drinking.

Moreover, a majority of those cutting back are in the 18- to 30-year-old age bracket.

Andrew Nunney of Accolade agreed that the biggest challenge for the wine industry is recruitment of new drinkers, drawing on further research confirming that “20% of those of legal drinking age are not drinking for health of religious reasons”, with people drinking less when they do, noting that “10% of all drinking occasions now have some moderating influence on them”.

Anderson said that innovation “doesn’t always have to be very revolutionary – it’s all about meeting consumer needs, consumer occasions and trends, not massive change, adding that much could be done with packaging to better satisfy consumer demand for differing and smaller formats.

Lower alcohol wines, formats such as pouches and smaller serves should all more widely available, while Liam Steevenson MW also highlighted the success of changing or removing packaging altogether, having just worked on a project with Borough Wines to introduce a range of quality wines on tap and in bag-in-box.

Packaging is just one aspect, as Bernard Fontannaz of Origin Wines highlighted, with communication playing a key role in changing perception of wine as “old hat” and selling its undersung “craft credentials”.

“Sometimes innovation isn’t about changing but about communication, offering a more eclectic choice, and communicating that to the consumer - we need to make people aware of the wealth of choice, the unique points of difference that wine can offer,” said Fonatannaz.

Michael Vachon of Maverick Drinks, describing himself as a spirits professional and a wine consumer, said that “the biggest innovation in wine in the last twenty years had been the screwcap”, but that modern technologies, including “demystifying apps such as Vivino, were helping open out wine to new consumers, allowing engaging stories and the real value of the liquid in the glass to be told and shared.

“Innovation need not mean radical change, but simpler initiatives that could take a massive category such as Australia and entice younger people to spend perhaps .50p or £1 more on a bottle,” added Anderson, highlighting the potential to drive greater returns from edging up the spend just a little in a market-leading, well-established category.

A full report on this New Product Development and Innovation seminar will appear on the June issue of Harpers.