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What The Market Says
Wine and Innovation Fashions Fads and Targeting Consumers Types
Tuesday, 11th December, 2012  - David Farmer

It is not easy to innovate in the world of wine. After all there is only so much you can do with the taste.

The true innovations over the last 40 years have been the opening up of new regions for vines and thus outstanding Australian pinot noirs are now available. The growth of vineyard regions in Chile and Argentine has been exciting while the development of Marlborough has practically ushered in a new taste. Add in technical improvements and the innovation bases are about all covered.

Still the enquiring marketing mind looks for consumer needs that are not covered, such as a current requirement for low alcohol-low calorie wines and this requires innovation as grapes and wines are manipulated to bring the alcohol under 10%. I have not examined these wines and do not know what they taste like.

As for fads they come and go and the last wave was in the late 1990s with the appeal of coloured wine bottles, particularly blue. A later innovation was to cover the bottle in a brightly coloured plastic film. These wines certainly had eye appeal and were decorative but the wine inside was no different and you paid more for the privilege. Time and again I have noticed that if wine companies can get more for the same wine in some novel way they will try but this is not innovation.

Recently Treasury Wines released the 'Be' range which targets 18 to 30 year old women. It has been a persistent belief of liquor category managers, and often they are women, that the female market has not been properly serviced. A noble attempt a long time ago had Alan Bond make a special Swan beer just for women. I've consumed many wines with women and have noticed they like just what I do, good wine and plenty of it. Thus I have always been sceptical of a female wine category.

In 2002 BRL Hardy [later Constellation, now Accolade] released a range of wines in brightly coloured bottles called Wicked Wines. I wrote about this under On Lust, Envy & Greed.

"The BRL Hardy marketers described the Wicked Wines as "a colourful and richly themed concept based around the 7 deadly sins". Their idea was "let's target women 20-32 years with image conscious, 'Look at Me' values; they're wanting an entry point to quality bottled wine without the daunting traditional wine cues... ...it's a life style statement... ...they are most likely to drive a new Hyundai Excel, read Cosmo, Cleo and She... ...They're moving out of home and setting up house with a girlfriend or getting married... ...this is 'their choice' of wine to drink and be seen with".

The Be wines were first launched by the American division of Treasury and came in four types; Be Fresh Chardonnay, Be Radiant Riesling, Be Bright Pinot Grigio and Be Flirty Pink Moscato. These wine terms and types were altered for Australia and became; Be Fresh Sauvignon Blanc, Be Breezy Rose and Be Luscious Moscato. In essence the American target is called fresh, radiant, bright and flirty and the Australian, fresh, breezy and luscious.

I refuse to believe the younger Australian woman will be moved by such simple views about what they should drink. When the Wicked wines, including Love, Envy and Greed, were released I wrote, "why would the modern young Aussie fall for such silliness. The wines are fine, though who would want to be seen with a plastic covered, red bottle labeled Envy? I have also taken notice of the price. It seems to me that someone is reaching into your pocket because the same taste can be had dollars cheaper. Is this where the Greed comes in?"

So my problem with the Be wines is a simple one. This is not an innovation but an offering of wines for $12 to $13 that customers can buy under other ranges for $6 to $8. It strikes me as odd that a marketing department thinks it's a good idea to sell wines for more money without an improvement.* I assume smart customers will know what to do.

*Should Treasury produce blending sheets that show the Be wines are unique I will retract these comments.

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