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Journey’s End sets sights on number one premium slot in UK

Published:  16 September, 2019

South African estate Journey’s End has ambitious plans to become the leading premium South African label in the UK and to do so via the traditionally tough to crack on-trade.

The restaurant sector has historically been slow on the uptake with premium South Africa, with customers and staff reverting to European classics over New World at the higher end, but Journey’s End’s brand manager Tom Hanson-Smith believes that this is fast changing.

Speaking to Harpers at an exclusive tasting of the Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Chardonnay-dominated range, Hanson-Smith said that sales in the on-trade were “very strong and growing”, with recognition of the quality coming out of South Africa fast rising.

“Our aim is to grow Journey’s End to become the number one premium South African brand in the UK and to do this in the on-trade,” said Hanson-Smith, adding that clear differentiation between on- and off-trade labels was vital in achieving this aim.

Seventy five percent of our [UK] business is on-trade and that allows people to understand South Africa’s potential – the quality of wines is the same as Italy or France, or any other country, it’s just about being open to the wines,” he said.

Hanson-Smith reasoned that the UK remains the most important market in terms of growing South Africa’s premium image, saying that while other markets such as the US are also significant sales-wise, “the UK remains ahead in terms of understanding South Africa”, being the most open to getting behind premium Cape wines.

Drawn on rival brands that can help push forward premium recognition, Chocolate Block was singled out as a wine that has carved out a reputation across several channels, while estates such as Jordan, Iona, Ken Forrester and Vergelegen are also advancing the premium cause, helping bridge the divide between wider recognition and benchmarking a higher level of quality.

Nonetheless, stats on the UK market give lie to the challenges facing South Africa.

In the off-trade, sales dipped 9% in volume and 6% in value in the 12 months to 23.03.19 (Nielsen figures), while the on-trade also saw a slump of 13% in volume and 9% in value over the same period (CGA figures).

However, on a more positive note, the price per litre sold of South African wine in the UK has risen by a modest 3% in the off-trade, and a more encouraging 5% in the on-trade, putting The Cape on a roughly even footing with the few countries that have managed any increase in average price over that same period, and with the on-trade leading the way.