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Generics respond to the pandemic: Wines of Germany

Published:  29 April, 2020

In the last of our current series on the generic bodies and their activities in relation to the pandemic and lockdown, Andrew Catchpole talks to Nicky Forrest, MD of Phipps, representing Wines of Germany.

What does work look like during lockdown?

Wines of Germany and the Phipps team are up and running remotely – so plenty of zoom meetings and early Monday morning pilates sessions to keep us all connected and sane! We’ve adapted incredibly well all things considered.

With regard to Wines of Germany UK – it’s largely business as usual. We spent the initial two weeks of lockdown focusing on the immediate weeks ahead so ensuring that we were communicating with the UK trade to inform them of event cancellations and postponements and letting them know that we were still operating as usual and ready to support where needed and possible.

We have ensured that the on and off-trade feel supported by Wines of Germany UK as much as possible, it’s been an incredibly tough and unusual time for businesses everywhere. As a team we’ve had to respond quickly to do what we can to help the trade and we have reached out to as many retailers, independent merchants, importers and on-trade gathering information on their new delivery terms, opening hours, wine availability, alternative virtual events and tastings – and we have collated all the information on our website. Then we created a paid for social campaign around it to ensure that consumers up and down the country know where and how they can still access great German wines over this period.

There has been a flurry of fantastic initiatives and the German producers have been fully on board hosting virtual events with their respective importers. It’s been great to be able to share all this on our social channels creating dedicated posts for this information and ultimately of course supporting as many of the UK wine trade selling German wine as possible!

As part of a wider team, we have been working collaboratively sending regular Covid-19 updates to the Deutsches Weininstitut, as well as the other 13 Wines of Germany global agencies, on the UK situation - ensuring everyone is well informed of the state of the UK market and how we plan to support and operate over the coming weeks/months.

In terms of planned events, initiatives and campaigns, what have you shifted and to when?

As the UK went into lockdown, the team here was busy preparing for the biggest Wines of Germany showcase, its annual trade and consumer portfolio tasting – The Big G which was due to take place on the 29 April. We were extremely frustrated that we couldn’t go ahead and we are looking re-scheduling it to April 2021.

Of course, spring and summertime are incredibly busy times of year for most generic bodies – so we have had to postpone a few other key calendar events too, including our Berlin Wine Bar (a series of consumer activations to be held in Bristol, Manchester and Edinburgh) which will now run in Q4 and our Somm Sessions (to be held in London, Bristol and Manchester) which will also take place between September and December. More information on dates and venues will be issued in due course.

What other initiatives or new strategies might we see as we emerge post lockdown?

In order to keep the momentum going, support the UK trade and provide a steady flow of education and information for our consumer followers, we have been busy adapting our campaign to suit these new times. We have been working on influencer campaigns, press outreach, social media initiatives and more retail promotions with multiple and online retailers. The 31 Days of German Riesling nationwide campaign will be back this July in a slightly different format (all will be revealed soon).

What is the scene like in Germany at the moment?

Fortunately, the wineries are still open and allowed to sell wines - but without a cellar door tasting opportunity. Due to the lack of wine tourism, sales are not as high as usual. Nevertheless, several wineries also report good sales through their online shop platforms or from email-orders.

Currently in Germany, wine sales in food retail run very well. Market researchers report a sales increase of over 30%. Many online wine retailers also saw a growth of up to 50%. However, these increases are due to the closed gastronomy and the associated relocation of wine purchases. Online wine tasting is currently experiencing a real boom. You can make an appointment with the winemaker on the internet for a certain time and try the previously ordered wines together. Often, more than 100 to 200 participants take part in these virtual wine tastings, where wine lovers can also ask questions about wine via chat. The DWI website now lists more than 100 wineries and wine cooperatives that offer this service.

Do you foresee any changes with regard to how the producers you represent might approach this market post the pandemic?

In Germany, producers who have retail listings have not been hit as hard as those with only on-trade or hospitality listings. Postponed fairs like ProWein, VDP.Weinbörse and reduced presentations for the trade will cause frustration as producers are unable to showcase their wines. I think that producers will be cautious approaching new markets and will be looking hard at their distribution strategies to ensure that retail is a strong part of the mix. What will be key in terms of how we approach this from a marketing point of view going forwards, is to keep the social channels open as a way of communicating to the trade, producers and consumers. Furthermore, to make sure that for the short and mid-term, all our activity has a commercial angle to it; whether it is educating gatekeepers on how to hand sell, or working directly with retailers to promote their German ranges.