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Harpers debate: industry leaders slam big brands

Published:  18 May, 2011

Big brand wines were slammed for being over-priced, poor quality and lacking in self-confidence by industry leaders at Harpers debate.

Speaking at the London Wine Fair debate on Wednesday, Dan Jago, head of BWS at Tesco, said big brands were going through a "period of self-reflection".

Jago predicted there will be fewer brands in the next five years. He said the supermarket was seeing "phenomenal growth" of Tesco own-brands and particularly Finest, rather than mainstream ones.

"The best brands are the ones owned by private individuals, their passion comes through in their products," he added.

He said recent turmoil experienced by big branded wine companies showed their strategies hadn't been completely successful.

Robin Copestick, founder of wine broker Copestick Murray, criticised well-known brands in the UK as being "overpriced and generally very poor quality".

He said a lot of his firm's work was coming from own-label brands, adding, "brands are not delivering at any level, which is opening the door for us."

Nick Mantella, UK managing director for Grupo Codorniu, said: "The reason that so many of the own-label brands are successful is not just about price, it's about reassurance."

When asked to name a genuine wine innovation that has yet to come to market, Kevin Shaw, founder of design agency Stranger & Stranger, said square bottles could save 13% of shelf space in major supermarkets, or 3 billion square metres of cardboard.

Jago said top innovations included lightweight glass and the resealable Zork closure for sparkling wine.
Price is still a talking point, as Mantella said consumers were "deal junkies -people will often buy on price and we have to accept that". But Ben Stephenson, founder of Manchester independent Hanging Ditch, said while price is still important to his customers, so is "experimentation at higher price points".

For full coverage of the Harpers debate, "It is the best of times, it is the worst of times", see our June 3 issue.